Category Archives: Aging

Emanuel: Stories of longevity may be missing important points

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Ezekiel Emanuel

Ezekiel Emanuel

It’s not that Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., necessarily wants to die right after he blows out 75 candles on his birthday cake. He just doesn’t want to live to a ripe old age if it means disability, disease or dementia.

Emanuel briefed reporters on the issues of quality versus quantity of life during a Dec. 12 webinar sponsored by Reporting on Health. It was also the theme of his controversial Atlantic article, “Why I Hope to Die at Age 75.”

“You don’t actually pick your own title; I certainly didn’t pick that Atlantic title.” he told more than 200 online participants. “It probably was good for sales for the Atlantic …”

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Investigating elder guardianship in Florida

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Institutionalized without justification. Stripped of all rights and dignity. No, it’s not some tale out of Guantanamo. It’s happening in cities and towns all over the U.S. Many frail, impaired, or just “unwanted” older adults are shut away, separated from their life savings, forced to endure countless indignities, and in some cases, lose their right to self-determination. It’s legal, but elder advocates say it’s another form of elder abuse.

Image by  MTSOfan via flickr.

Image by MTSOfan via flickr.

The treatment of Sarasota’s most vulnerable is the focus of a terrific series on elder guardianship from Barbara Peters Smith at the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald Tribune. Her profiles of these elders whose lives were forever changed will make you want to reach out and speak with seniors and families in your own community. Any one of these stories could be that of your grandmother or mother or brother.

Finding the impetus for this series  came about quite by chance, as Smith describes in her “How I did it” piece. It involved many, many phone calls, emails and old fashioned footwork led to hard scrutiny of a system that appeared out of control. Despite many challenges, including how to verify many of the stories she heard, Smith found a pattern that was hard to ignore, and did the due diligence necessary to verify and vet the information used. A phone call, an editor who listened, and a woman desperate to leave a facility she didn’t want to be in provided the appropriate news hook.

When Smith met two women at a seminar on elder fraud, she had no idea what that conversation would lead to. By listening and by using her journalistic instincts, she uncovered a problem larger than she ever  imagined. By keeping your antenna up and thinking “big picture,” you also may find a great news story hidden in a seemingly random conversation.

Powerful Alzheimer’s narrative nets radio documentary award

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

When done well, there may be no better medium for storytelling than radio. When vivid narrative is paired powerful audio, “There’s something about sound that puts our imaginations to work, making us more active participants in the story we’re hearing,” as journalism professor Casey Frechette wrote recently.

A 25-minute radio documentary,  “Living well with dementia – a personal journey” from journalist Pieter Droppert provides a vivid example of radio’s power for storytelling. The piece won first prize for Best Radio Documentary in the 2014 UK Broadcast Journalism Training Council student journalism awards.

Alzheimer's Walk 2013, Atlanta, GA

Image by Susumu Komatsu via flickr.

We are introduced to Droppert’s mother, Audrey, whose disease has progressed to the stage where she no longer recognizes him. We also meet Tommy Dunne, who talks about life with early-onset dementia, and hear from experts who are working to increase awareness of this devastating disease and improve quality of life for those requiring nursing home care.

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Seniors face struggle to get preventive dental care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

A recent special “Your Money” section in The New York Times looked at American spending habits from a variety of angles. One piece examined geographic patterns in the consumption of luxury goods. Another explored the emotional aspects of bargain hunting. Then there was an article by Ann Carrns that delved into the difficult spending choices retirees may face in obtaining dental care.

Image by  Partha S. Sahana via flickr.

Image by Partha S. Sahana via flickr.

The piece opened with an anecdote about 73-year-old Terry O’Brien, a retired administrative assistant weighing the cost of a $2,000 crown for one of her teeth.

“I always took care of my teeth,” O’Brien told the Times. But since she lacks dental coverage, she opted for a less expensive filling. The call was a tough one that left O’Brien pondering how she will go on paying for her dental care. “I’ll make 100, I bet,” she said.  “But I wonder how long my teeth will last.” Continue reading

Taylor’s top 10 tips for covering scientific meetings

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Mark Taylor

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonMark Taylor

How can journalists make the most of their time and energy when covering a scientific or professional conference?

Mark Taylor has covered more than a few scientific conferences in his two decades as a health care journalist. While he says that doesn’t qualify him as an expert, he does admit that “over the years I’ve painfully acquired a few tips for how to successfully cover such massive events.”

Most recently, he attended the annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (as a GSA Journalism in Aging Fellow), which featured more than 500 presentations, symposia and poster sessions.

Following that meeting, Taylor shared his top 10 tips for efficiently covering scientific conferences. Find out what they are and then come back here to  add your tips in the comments.

In global struggle to care for aging populations, plenty of room for improvement

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: Chester Paul Sgroi via Flickr

Photo: Chester Paul Sgroi via Flickr

Compared with other industrialized nations, patients age 65 or older in the U.S. are generally in poorer overall health and have more challenges paying out-of-pocket expenses than their counterparts in other industrialized nations, according to a new study in the November 2014 issue of Health Affairs. (Remember, AHCJ members get free access to Health Affairs.)

Older adults in 11 nations – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States – were asked by telephone about their health and health care delivery. Among the 15,617 adults, age 65 or older, who participated in the 2014 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults, 20 percent of respondents in every country except France reported problems with care coordination. Access to primary care was most challenging in Canada, the U.S., and Sweden. Continue reading

How to leverage local angles on fall prevention

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

hj11-collins

Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director, National Institutes of Health, speaks at Health Journalism 2011.

One of the NIH initiatives highlighted last week by director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., during his keynote at the Gerontological Society meeting was a 5-year, $30 million cooperative effort with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute  (PCORI) to conduct a clinical trial testing individually-tailored interventions to prevent fall-related injuries.

Why is this important? Because, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, one in three adults over age 65 experiences at least one fall annually; 20 percent to 30 percent of which cause moderate to severe injuries — or even death. Falls lead to increased hospitalizations, higher medical costs, loss of independence, diminished quality of life, and affects other chronic conditions. According to the CDC, older adults are hospitalized five times more often for fall-related injuries than for other causes. Direct medical costs of fall injuries for people 65 and older was $30 billion in 2012 and by 2020, total direct and indirect costs are projected to more than double.

As of July 2014, nine states have enacted or are considering legislation on fall-prevention initiatives. Many others are partnering with community organizations to educate providers and seniors about the risks. As Kate Hafner wrote in this New York Times piece, the problem is only growing worse.

More peace of mind may come at a price for consumers. Fall-related wearable technology is big business. Consumer Reports recently profiled six different medical alert systems. At the recent National Association of Home Care and Hospice annual conference, I saw at least another half-dozen new products on exhibit — the latest of which incorporate GPS tracking, providing an ability to find the wearer regardless of location. Others monitor a wearer’s balance, alerting clinicians to assess potential health issues before a fall occurs.

There are plenty of ideas and opportunities to focus on falls in the elderly in your community – home risk assessment and safety programs, hospital admissions, costs of rehab, and loss of independence and ability to age in place are just a few ideas. Or take a look at the business side of falls — from health costs to entrepreneurs.

See this tip sheet for more information on how falling affects older adults.

Gero is “hot science:” NIH Director Collins

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

The National Institutes of Health remains strongly committed to the future of aging research, said NIH Director Francis S. Collins during Thursday’s kickoff of the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

During his keynote speech at the GSA meeting, Collins highlighted several areas of research that are getting recent notice by mainstream media, including the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), bio markers to map cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease and a 5-year, $30 million fall prevention project.

Collins also described several research successes at NIH and its National Institute on Aging since the NIA’s founding in 1974.  “Life expectancy has increased. Deaths from cardiovascular disease are down 70 percent in the last 60 years,” he said. “Cancer deaths are also down, although not enough, but have dropped about one percent a year for the last 15 years.” Every one percent decline saves the U.S. About $500 billion in costs, he noted.

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New OIG report: Medicare paid for HIV drugs for deceased beneficiaries

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

A report released Friday by the Office of the Inspector General found that, under the Part D program, Medicare paid for HIV drugs for 150 dead recipients.

An analysis of Prescription Drug Event (PDE) records for HIV drugs in 2012 determined that CMS’s current practices allowed most of these payments to occur. Although CMS has processes in place that reject PDE records for drugs with dates of service more than 32 days after death, in some cases, claims that fell outside this window were paid. Most of these drugs were dispensed by retail pharmacies.  prescription-drugs

According to OIG, “Drugs that treat the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be a target for fraud, waste, and abuse, primarily because they can be very expensive.” The report points out, for example, that one common antiretroviral drug costs approximately $1,700 per month. HIV drugs accounted for one-quarter of one percent of all Part D drugs in 2012.

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Journalist offered money to cover Alzheimer’s briefing

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

A representative of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, which treats and researches Alzheimer’s disease, has issued invitations to cover an hour-long briefing hosted by its principal scientist.

Image by Logan Campbell via flickr.

Image by Logan Campbell via flickr.

The lure?

“Participants will receive $100 for their commitment to write about the impact of Alzheimer’s and what readers can do to help combat the disease.”

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