Category Archives: Aging

Talking about end of life and palliative care: Part two of a conversation with Nancy Berlinger

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: James Hancox via Flickr

Photo: James Hancox via Flickr

Nancy Berlinger, Ph.D., is a research scholar at The Hastings Center and co-author of a retrospective article on palliative and end-of-life care that was published in the Feb. 12 New England Journal of Medicine.

In part one of our conversation, Berlinger focused on the need to broaden the discussion among and improve training of clinicians on talking to patients about end of life issues. In part two, she discusses foreseeable scenarios, societal perspectives and how to improve media coverage of this complex topic. Continue reading

How the discussion on dying has changed over 40 years: A conversation with Nancy Berlinger

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.

If you want a refresher on how far society has come on dealing with end-of-life care issues — and what issues are still to be resolved — then this retrospective article in the Feb 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine from experts at The Hastings Center is a great place to begin. It reviews the history of the end-of-life care movement in the U.S., takes a look at the integration of palliative care into health care delivery, discusses the still controversial “death with dignity” laws and ethical issues like removal of feeding and hydration tubes.

I recently spoke with co-author Nancy Berlinger, Ph.D., a research scholar at Hastings, about how the conversation on death and dying has changed over four decades. Continue reading

SuperAger brains distinctly different than those of peers

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.

Why do the brains of some older adults look very different than those of their peers? Scientists at Northwestern University say the answer may explain why these elders don’t suffer the same cognitive decline that affects other seniors.

Image by  Allan Ajifot via flickr.

Image by Allan Ajifot via flickr.

These so-called “SuperAgers,” all age 80 and older, have memories as sharp as those of healthy people 30 years younger, according to a small study by researchers from the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. This is the first study to quantify brain differences of SuperAgers and normal older people.

When compared with people of similar ages, the “brain signature” of SuperAgers have a thicker region of the cortex; significantly fewer tangles — a primary marker of Alzheimer’s disease – and a substantial supply of von Economo neurons, which are linked to higher social intelligence.

Continue reading

Program uses pharmacists to help manage complex health needs

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: Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

Photo: Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

As the Department of Health and Human Services continues its shift towards an outcomes-based payment model, one small health system is working with its pharmacists to create an innovative disease management initiative to minimize hospital readmissions and improve health status for its most complex – and costly – patients.

The Comprehensive Health Management program developed by Martin Health System in Stuart, Fla., establishes a progressive role for pharmacists to work directly with older, chronically ill patients. Integrating these neighborhood-based professionals into the system’s primary care practices improves management of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart and lung disease, according to David Harlow, Pharm.D., assistant vice president for professional services, clinical imaging, clinical laboratory, clinical pharmacy and disease management at Martin. Continue reading

NIH cautions older adults, caregivers to be vigilant about hypothermia

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: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature that may result in long term, serious health problems such as a heart attack, kidney or liver damage, or death.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to hypothermia because their body’s response to cold is often diminished by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes. Certain medications, including over-the-counter cold remedies, can also affect the body’s response to temperature.

According to the National Institute on Aging, hypothermia is generally defined as having a core body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. It can occur when the outside environment gets too cold or the body’s heat production decreases. Hypothermia can develop in older adults even after relatively short exposure to cold weather or a small drop in temperature. Recent CDC data shows that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the 2,000 weather related deaths for all ages between 2006-10 were due to exposure to excessive cold, hypothermia, or both. Between 1999 and 2002, 49 percent of those who died from hypothermia were aged 65 or older, 67 percent were male. Continue reading

Shared wisdom: Shooting video of older adults

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.

Sue Scheible

Sue Scheible

Sometimes all we need is a quick suggestion from our peers to zero in on a good story. In the “Shared Wisdom” section of our core topic areas, we turn to front-line journalists for advice, some simple insight to add to our repository.

Today’s addition is from Sue Scheible of the Patriot Ledger in Massachusetts. Scheible (@sues_ledger) has been a staff reporter at the paper for 46 years and has a weekly column on aging. She offers some tips on filming video of older adults and why video can be so powerful. In one recent video that Scheible shot, an 85-year-old woman explained what she’s learned about talking to doctors.

See what wisdom Scheible offers fellow journalists.

Is early-onset Alzheimer’s getting the attention it deserves?

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.

Julianne Moore just won a Golden Globe for her vivid portrayal of the title character in “Still Alice.” The movie, which opens Friday, is based on a novel about a college professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. What makes this story so compelling is that it details the devastating toll on both Alice and her family from Alice’s perspective.

While stories about cognitive decline in middle-aged former athletes have made news for some time, the making of this movie points to how the problem is moving into the mainstream and a new willingness to address it. WBUR recently profiled 64-year old journalist Greg O’Brien – who’s been writing about his ongoing battle with the disease since his diagnosis five years ago. Reporter Kim Lemon did a three-part series for WGAL-Susquehanna Valley, Pa., prompted by her husband’s diagnosis. Gary Rotstein describes his journey to craft a multi-year series for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a 57-year old man’s long-term efforts to cope with his diagnosis. Continue reading

Flu hitting seniors hard across the country

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.

Image via CDC.gov

It’s the first week of January and winter seems to have finally arrived with a vengeance. In addition to the cold and snow, many older adults are also fighting this year’s flu.

The CDC reports the virus is widespread in 43 states — from New England to the Pacific Northwest. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications with older adults and those with respiratory problems at especially high risk.

Some 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. More than 200,000 are hospitalized from its complications.

By the first day of 2015, CDC’s influenza surveillance systems were showing “elevated” activity, including increasing hospitalizations rates in people 65 years and older. CBS Atlanta reported that “flu-related hospitalizations for the elderly have doubled from this time last year” across the country. Media outlets report increased flu-related deaths among local elderly in recent days. Continue reading

Looking ahead to reporting on aging in the new year

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 by Boris Bartels via Flickr

Photo by Boris Bartels via Flickr

There are plenty of aging-related stories on the horizon for 2015. Here are just some issues and ideas to get you started:

The once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging is scheduled for sometime in mid-2015 – a date is yet to be finalized. It’s the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference will focus on four key areas:

  • Retirement security
  • Healthy aging
  • Long-term services and supports
  • Elder justice

Look for plenty of updates on the conference by spring.

Retirement

Issues include financial security, affordable housing, aging-in-place and community-based support services. According to Leading Age Magazine, boomers are poorly prepared when it comes to savings. How are the 50- and 60-somethings in your community preparing for retirement? Or are they? Continue reading

Posts about Ebola, oral health, ethics and data among year’s top reads

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.

As we close out 2014, take a look back at the most popular Covering Health posts of the year:

Thanks for reading and contributing ideas and comments this year!