Category Archives: Aging

CMS expands popular home and community-based program

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is funding five additional states and territories to expand access to home and community-based services through Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration program.

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Inflation Reduction Act will benefit millions of older adults

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Millions of older adults will soon benefit from lower prescription drug prices and a cap on out-of-pocket costs thanks to landmark legislation signed into law by President Biden today. Continue reading

An uptick in nursing home COVID deaths, cases

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COVID-related nursing home cases and deaths are on the rise again, according to recently published data on AARP’s COVID-19 dashboard. And while these rates are nowhere near the levels of 2020 or early 2021, it’s still a troublesome sign that new COVID variants are making their way into facilities tasked with caring for vulnerable older adults.

Rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths rose in June for the second month in a row — with resident cases increasing by 27% for the four weeks ending June 19. That means about one in every 35 nursing home residents nationally tested positive. Staff positivity rates increased by 42% in the same period — about one in every 28. It’s not clear, however, whether staff were infected in the community or contracted COVID in the nursing home. Death rates are trending up too — increasing by about 54% in June compared with the previous month, according to AARP’s data, which is culled from Information on COVID-19 reported by nursing homes to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

Journalists can use this data to closely follow trends in their state, or even drill down to an individual facility level.

“We’ve actually had increasing cases for a couple of months now,” said Ari Houser, AARP senior methods advisor and lead data analyst on their nursing home COVID dashboard. “Preliminary CDC data through July 17 shows the trend continuing upward, so we’re not at the peak yet.”

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Older adults sacrifice basic needs to pay for health care

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Rising costs are putting many older adults in an economic bind. Some are skimping on basics like food to pay for health care; others are foregoing health care entirely. Both approaches may have serious long-term health consequences, according to a recent survey from Gallup and West Health.

Over one in three adults 50 and older have forgone basics such as food or utilities to pay for health care. Conversely, some older Americans are skipping needed health visits or medication because of costs. U.S. adults 50-64, women, and Black adults are more likely to cut back on basics, according to the Gallup poll. However, more than a third of adults 65 and older (37%) also said they are concerned about affording needed health care services in the next year.

Journalists can use these results as a starting point for examining the cost of care locally and programs available to help offset health care costs or other basic living expenses. This is particularly relevant as inflation continues to rise forcing more people to choose what to pay for and what to sacrifice.

Adults 50 to 64 are not yet eligible for Medicare, but many are already experiencing health problems. Nearly 50 million adults 50 and older are at a critical age because they will need additional care as they age, Nicole Wilcoxon, Ph.D., research director at Gallup said in a Zoom interview. “Cutting back on care due to cost puts them at risk for more severe illness and even death.”

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New tip sheet explores aging in American Indian/Alaskan Native populations

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Geography, race and ethnicity play a key role in how long people live. Lack of access to preventive care, multiple chronic conditions and mistrust of the health system are also more prevalent among certain populations, including American Indians/Alaskan Natives. It’s an important health story that may be missed, even by journalists who regularly report on this population.

I recently participated in the webinar, “Health: Equity: Aging and Health Care Disparities in Indigenous Communities” as part of an AHCJ partnership with the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). It’s not a topic I was too familiar with, so I was grateful for the opportunity to learn more. As this new tip sheet explains, while the American Indian/Alaska Native older population will more than double to 648,000 by 2060, the groups have a lower life expectancy, lower quality of life and are disproportionately affected by many chronic conditions than other racial/ethnic groups, according to the CDC

Much of this shorter life expectancy has to do with prevalence of multiple chronic conditions like obesity and heart disease and lifestyle concerns like smoking. More than one in three American Indian/Alaskan Native adults 50 and older are obese; two of every three older adults do not engage in monthly physical activity. And these groups are 30% more likely to have high blood pressure compared with other populations and are 20% more likely to smoke — the highest prevalence among all groups.

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