Despite the growing numbers of elders from different races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations, many of these older individuals are still marginalized when it comes to finding or accessing services and supports. That’s also true for those family members who care for them, according to a panel of experts at the recent Aging in America conference in New Orleans. Continue reading
A new study out of the United Kingdom reinforces the influence that culture and societal attitudes can have on the health status of older adults. Psychologists from the University of Kent used data from the European Social Survey to ask respondents, all age 70 or older, to self-rate their health.
In countries where old age is thought of as signifying low status, participants who identified themselves as ‘old’ felt worse about their own health. The opposite was true in places where older people have a perception of higher social status. The researchers concluded that elevating perceived social status of older people would reduce negative connotations associated with old age and the negative impact on how healthy people felt.
The value different societies place on the elderly has a lot to with how they are cared for later in life, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond explained in a recent TED talk. These effects in turn, influence public policy for global long-term services and supports. The International Federation of Social Workers recently noted, “Although older adults serve as essential resources to their communities, they face a great risk of marginalization.” Continue reading
New America Media (NAM) just posted the 400th article on its Ethnic Elders Newsbeat page since we started it in late 2008. (NAM is a nonprofit news service working with 3,000 ethnic media in the United States.)
The 400th piece, “Caregivers Break the Silence: Japanese Americans at Risk,” is by Ellen Endo. A veteran editor and reporter in the Asian American media, Endo developed the story for her ethnic media organization, Rafu Shimpo in Los Angeles, under the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellows program, a collaboration between the nonprofit NAM and the Gerontological Society of America (GSA).
But it could just as well have been stories by other MetLife Fellows, perhaps Cristina Fresquez-Pizarro’s piece for the Denver-based El Semanario on the high level of Parkinson’s among Latinos, or the next installment of Peter McDermott’s series on older immigrants aging in America for the Irish Echo in New York.
Not only has developing (and sometimes writing) such articles given me a full editorial spice rack of story angles on aging, but it has deepened my belief that reporters can enliven many stories – often in surprising and meaningful ways – simply by finding at least one ethnically diverse source. Continue reading
The California HealthCare Foundation’s Center for Health Reporting partnered with no fewer than nine different organizations to produce a sprawling story package examining the impact of the looming closure of many of California’s adult day health care centers. (Since the project launched, California reached a legal settlement that will allow adults most at risk of institutionalization to continue to receive services previously provided by adult day health centers. Existing centers will be able to provide services through the end of Feb. 2012. See this write-up in California Healthline.)
Jocelyn Wiener’s centerpiece stands alone, but the package really gains steam when you take the time to consider its full breadth and depth.
For those new to the issue, here’s Wiener’s primer and a hint as to why the package grew out of a collaboration with a kaleidoscope of ethnic media organizations.
Los Angeles County – especially its many ethnic minority communities –will be hit hardest by the closures. According to state data, the county is home to more than 60 percent of the program’s 38,000 enrollees statewide. One quarter have dementia. Forty percent are incontinent. Nearly half have a psychiatric diagnosis. More than 70 percent do not speak English.
The centers provide them with transportation, meals, exercise, medication management, physical and occupational therapy, as well as robust social programs that many participants say have renewed their will to live.
Health journalists will find Richard Kipling’s “how we did it” piece to be a natural entry point. Kipling unspools the narrative of how a brief suggestion became an anything-but-brief compendium of multilingual, multicultural, multigenerational reporting. Kipling’s blog also serves as a useful roadmap to the project.
Watch the AHCJ website for more about how this project was reported.
In The Providence Journal, reporter and AHCJ board member Felice Freyer reports on the local effects of the national trend toward higher proportions of minority residents in nursing homes. In addition to the logistical concerns raised by this demographic shift, Freyer also explores what it says about health disparities and access to care in minority communities.
Freyer’s report is built on a Brown University study published in the July edition of Health Affairs. As you may know, free access to Health Affairs is one of the many benefits that come with your AHCJ membership.
… between 1999 and 2008, the number of Hispanics and Asians living in U.S. nursing homes grew by 54.9 percent and 54.1 percent, respectively, while the number of whites dropped 10.2 percent.
These numbers reflect the changing demographic profile of elderly people, whose ranks include growing numbers of blacks, Hispanics and Asians. But the researchers say their findings also raise questions about whether minority-group members have poorer access to assisted-living and community-based care. The question may be especially relevant as states such as Rhode Island strive to “rebalance” the long-term system to favor home-based care over institutional care.
Freyer’s story also includes data from Brown’s LTCfocus.org site, a handy tool for sorting and visualizing data related to long term care and nursing homes.
After analyzing 4,703 death certificates of folks who died at adult homes during a five-year span, The Seattle Times‘ Michael Berens found “at least 236 deaths that indicate neglect or abuse in these homes but were not reported to the state or investigated.”
In a sidebar, he explains that Times staff searched for cases that indicated neglect or low quality of care, and that the journalists’ careful standards and reliance on death certificates (none of which involved autopsies) means their estimate is likely on the low end.
There are almost 3,000 adult homes in Washington State. In the past decade, they’ve earned the state a national reputation for elder care innovation, but also opened a gaping hole in the regulatory fabric, as Berens has reported previously. On the whole, they’re billed as cheaper and more neighborhood-like than nursing homes. They’re also less regulated and, Berens found, more likely to fatally neglect patients. Here are his numbers:
… adult-home deaths indicating neglect occur at strikingly higher rates than comparable deaths at nursing homes:
- Pressure-sore deaths in adult homes occur at a rate more than 3.5 times higher.
- The rate of deaths from falls is four times higher.
- For choking deaths, the rate is 15 times higher.
Beyond the highlights, Berens’ piece is exhaustively researched, and most definitely required reading for anyone reporting from one of the dozens of states seeking to emulate Washington’s adult home system.