Tag Archives: aging in the 21st century workshop

In the cold, elderly more likely to break hip

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

USA Today‘s Kim Painter reminds folks, especially the elderly, to practice “defensive walking” during winter months, citing a “decade-long study of 66,346 hip fractures in New York City found that, at least in that city, fracture rates were highest in winter, especially on the coldest and windiest days.”X-ray of part of a spine

At the same time, Painter reports, overall fall rates don’t seem to budge to much in the winter, perhaps because folks are more likely to stay inside rather than risk icy steps and walkways. Painter says the increased fracture rates could be because of icy streets, weaker muscles as a result of winter inactivity and even lower vitamin D levels, which have been linked to weak muscles and brittle bones.

Poynter’s Al Tompkins, who first alerted us to this story, also points to CDC resources on the “silent epidemic” of hip fractures in America.

AHCJ on Aging

AHCJ resources

AHCJ’s Aging in the 21st Century workshop, held Oct. 16 and 17 in Miami, addressed the changing picture of aging Americans and key research and issues related to this growing population. Tip sheets and presentations from that workshop are available to AHCJ members, as are these related tip sheets:

Covering the Health of Local Nursing HomesSlim guide: Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes

Check out AHCJ’s latest volume in its ongoing Slim Guide series. This reporting guide gives a head start to journalists who want to pursue stories about one of the most vulnerable populations – nursing home residents. It offers advice about Web sites, datasets, research and other resources. After reading this book, journalists can have more confidence in deciphering nursing home inspection reports, interviewing advocacy groups on all sides of an issue, locating key data, and more. The book includes story examples and ideas.

AHCJ publishes these reporting guides, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to help journalists understand and accurately report on specific subjects.

Elderly prison population booming

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

CNN’s Stephanie Chen considers the issues that surround elderly prisoners, a fast-growing group that has generally flown under the radar. According to Chen, “An analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics data found that the male prison population over age 55 ballooned by 82 percent in eight years, from 48,800 inmates in 1999 to 89,900 in 2007.”

These older inmates are typically more expensive and in poorer health than their younger peers. In Georgia, Chen reports, “the state spends about $8,500 on medical costs for inmates over 65, compared with about an average of $950 for those who are younger.”

Every inmate here has a medical condition; dementia, hypertension and diabetes are the most common, the warden says. “With the elderly population, we’re beginning to run something comparable to nursing homes,” says Sharon Lewis, medical director for the Georgia Department of Corrections. “This is one of the unhealthiest populations found anywhere. They really lived life hard.”

The boom in geriatric prisoners has stressed state budgets, especially in states where money was already tight. In response, Chen writes, some states are considering softening their stance on older prisoners.

To ease budget woes in California, one bill up for debate would allow nonviolent elderly prisoners to be released into hospice care or monitored with ankle bracelets. In the past few years, Georgia officials say, the state has released more frail and dying inmates on medical reprieve than ever before. Other states, including New York and Virginia, have also allowed early release of ailing elderly inmates.

For tips about reporting on jails and prisons, be sure to read Naseem Sowti Miller’s tip sheet, Covering health care in jails, and her presentation on the topic from the 2008 Urban Health Journalism Workshop. For tips and tools on reporting on America’s graying population, check out reports from last month’s Aging in the 21st Century workshop.

Shalala, Wiener: Long-term care left out

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Drawing on AHCJ’s Aging in the 21st Century workshop, New America Media’s Paul Kleyman writes on health care reform’s failure to adequately address long-term care for the nation’s elderly. In particular, he focuses on keynote speaker and former HHS secretary Donna Shalala’s stark political assessment that, despite some promising signs, “we’re not there, yet.”

Donna Shalala spoke at AHCJ's "Aging in the 21st Century" workshop in October. (Photo: Charles Ding)

Donna Shalala spoke at AHCJ's "Aging in the 21st Century" workshop in October. (Photo: Charles Ding)

On a slight note of hope, Kleyman adds that while she’s pessimistic about comprehensive restructuring of long-term care, Shalala said it may be possible to “cobble together” an acceptable system if reformers can make a few key changes.

Kleyman also drew on long-term care expert Joshua Weiner’s speech at the recent On Lok Annual Conference. Weiner is a senior fellow at the Research Triangle Institute (bio) who emphasizes the costly and dangerous disconnect between acute care and long-term care in the American system.

He urges reformers to find ways to integrate long-term care facilities and hospitals, both financially and medically. At present, Weiner says, some parts of the system are covered and others aren’t, a situation which results in uneven and disconnected care, as well as repeated hospital visits for patients with chronic conditions. “Avoidable hospital readmissions, alone, cost Medicare $18 billion a year,” Kleyman writes.

Related

Covering the Health of Local Nursing HomesCovering the Health of Local Nursing Homes: Check out AHCJ’s latest volume in its ongoing Slim Guide series. This reporting guide gives a head start to journalists who want to pursue stories about one of the most vulnerable populations – nursing home residents. It offers advice about Web sites, datasets, research and other resources. After reading this book, journalists can have more confidence in deciphering nursing home inspection reports, interviewing advocacy groups on all sides of an issue, locating key data, and more. The book includes story examples and ideas.

AHCJ publishes these reporting guides, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to help journalists understand and accurately report on specific subjects.

‘Too old for surgery’ a more complicated decision

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Marie McCullough of The Philadelphia Inquirer takes a look at lifesaving surgeries performed on older patients, finding that “Age is no longer the deciding factor, even for invasive treatment such as open-heart surgery.”

McCullough reports that the growing population of elderly Americans and advances in surgical procedures are changes the way doctors approach some older patients. With elderly patients better able to survive major surgery, the question moves from the realm of health to that of economics and morality. McCullough explores both.

Blogger, author and doctor Lucy E. Hornstein extends McCullough’s conclusions, writing that “A cost-effective, medically appropriate way to address this issue is to curb overtreatment in those patients with advanced dementia and multiple co-morbidites, whatever their age.”

AHCJ speaker writes about physiology of eating

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The New York Times‘s Tara Parker-Pope reviewed former FDA chief Dr. David Kessler’s new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. In it, Kessler seems to paint Americans as victims of a carefully calibrated gustatory assault, explaining that the food industry has perfected the art of creating food that “taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.” Though he did not write a diet book, Parker-Pope says, Kessler does try to help folks enter “food rehab,” where they can use their new awareness of food science to “take back control of our eating habits.”

Kessler will be a spotlight speaker at AHCJ’s Aging in the 21st Century Workshop, set for Oct. 16 and 17 in Miami. Tapping into the expertise and understanding of human psychology and physiology he showed in his book, Kessler will discuss nutrition and aging at the workshop.