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
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.
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
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 …”
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.
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
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
Image by Alex E. Proimos via flickr.
The term “frailty” seems to be practically synonymous with aging. And while it’s true that adults naturally have a gradual physical decline as they age, not every older adult is frail and not every frail person is old.
Aging, also called senescence, refers to the biological process of growing older. As people age, it becomes more difficult for the body to repair itself and maintain optimal health, according to Neal S. Fedarko, Ph.D., professor of medicine, division of geriatric medicine and gerontology, Johns Hopkins University. People age differently based on both genetics and lifestyle factors.
Frailty is considered a chronic and progressive condition, categorized by at least three of five criteria: muscle weakness, unintentional weight loss, low physical activity levels, fatigue and slow walking speed. The body loses its ability to cope with everyday or acute stress, becoming more vulnerable to disease and death, as Samuel Durso, M.D., director of geriatric medicine and gerontology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explained in a recent AHCJ webcast.
Learn more about frailty, and how it affects people’s quality of life as they age, in this new tip sheet.
Two new reports again underscore the need for a comprehensive national long-term services and support initiative.
First, the good news: A new National Center for Health Statistics data brief shows that Americans are living longer. Overall life expectancy rose by 0.1 percent from 2011 to 2012, to 78.8 years, and was highest for non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks. Women can expect to live an average of 81.2 years, and men an average of 76.4 years, based on the new analysis.
The report also shows significant decreases in age-adjusted death rates for eight of the 10 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, stroke, influenza, pneumonia and kidney disease.
Now the bad news – a new report released by the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services found increased costs associated with critical access hospitals. Medicare beneficiaries paid nearly half of the costs for outpatient services at critical access hospitals – a higher percentage of the costs of coinsurance for services received at these facilities than they would have paid at hospitals using Outpatient Prospective Payment System rates. Continue reading
Addressing the global epidemic of dementia and improving end-of-life planning and care in the United States are the subjects of two new reports released today by Alzheimer’s Disease International and the Institute of Medicine. Both reports offer insights into the realities of dealing with an aging population and a lack of appropriate services and supports to meet present and future needs.
According to ADI, substantial evidence exists that risk for dementia can be reduced by using the same approaches as those which promote cardiovascular health — eliminating tobacco use, early detection and treatment of hypertension and diabetes. They call for a worldwide campaign to integrate brain health messages into existing public health efforts. Additionally, the report calls for the World Health Organization to include dementia risk in future noncommunicable disease efforts. Continue reading
Postmenopausal women who eat foods higher in potassium are less likely to have strokes and die than women who eat less potassium-rich foods according to new research in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of mortality in the United States, and as this infographic shows, women account for 60 percent of all stroke cases in the U.S. Women also have higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
In this observational study, researchers tracked 90,137 postmenopausal women, ages 50 to 79, for an average 11 years. They looked at potassium consumption, incidence and type of stroke and mortality during that period. The average dietary potassium intake from food —not supplements — was 2,611 mg/day. All participants were free of stroke history at baseline. Continue reading
I knew next to nothing about the fast-growing assisted-living industry when I started reporting in early 2013 on problem homes in San Diego.
For example, I did not know that many seniors in today’s assisted-living homes are so frail and medically needy that they would have been in nursing homes 20 or 30 years ago. Many live in facilities with no medically trained staff.
Most astonishing to me was the lack of public access to state regulatory reports revealing the quality of care in homes, not only in California but nationally. We’re so accustomed to NursingHomeCompare and HospitalCompare – whatever their flaws – that the hoops families and journalists must leap through to judge an assisted-living home’s quality seem downright primitive. Continue reading