Computerization of Health Records Benefits Seniors

President Obama's stimulus bill has passed and now we must hope that it is implemented with some oversight and accountability (the same accountability we want the banks and others receiving bail out dollars to uphold).

As with all bills that pass the House and Senate, this one too will include many items that cannot please all of us.  But one item I am happy about in the Economic Stimulus bill, and think all seniors and caregivers should celebrate, is this one:

"Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized."

Many seniors and their family members have walked into the office of a new doctor - usually a specialist for a new diagnosis such as cancer, Alzheimer's Disease or Parkinson's Disease, only to find they must fill out pages and pages of paperwork to provide information about their medical history and insurance.  And we are the country that invented the internet?  We can drive past a toll booth without tossing a dime into the basket because of technology and we can pay all of our bills with a few clicks on a computer.  But walk into a hospital and they have no way to access your medical records, no way to find out what medications you are taking and no idea what Medicare insurance plan you are on.

It is time for our medical care to get up to speed with technology.  It is possible to do this in a safe and secure way (we transfer millions of dollars a day from one bank account to another via online bill payment).

This seems especially important knowing the senior population will more than double within the next 20 years.  With many industries already communicating information via cell phones, it is time for health care to at least be able to communicate via computers in preparation for a wired society.  This will be a massive benefit for seniors and their family members who often do not live in the same city and need a way to monitor the care.

You may learn more about the health care initiatives included in the stimulus plan on the White House website.  Definitely check in with your local Congressman and Senator to share any concerns you may have with them.  Corporations know that when you track all of your activity, you increase profitability and performance ---- definitely healthcare will benefit in many ways beyond just convenience by the computerization of medical records.

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Mini-Mental Exam Can Detect Memory Loss

In only ten minutes time, a mini-mental exam screens seniors for signs of dementia.  Referred to in the medical community simply as a "mini-mental", the official name is the Mini-mental State Exam and it is copyrighted by Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR).  Geriatric care doctors will give this exam to their senior clients to keep ahead of any signs of memory loss.

The mini-mental test asks questions about the time and place of the test, and incorporates math and language skills to test cognitive and memory abilities.  It asks questions like how many nickels are in $1.25 and if you can spell a certain word backwards.

Many times memory loss in seniors can be connected with an illness or with medications.  If properly addressed, senior memory loss can be slowed or reversed. Because of age-related diseases, seniors are more at risk for memory loss and should be sure their medical doctor is conducting a mini-mental at their annual check-ups.

If you are a caregiver for a senior, you can also find a variety of memory exercises at the Alzheimer's Store.

One of my Aunts suffered a stroke a few years ago and after being air-lifted to a metropolitan hospital,  she received excellent care and made nearly a full recovery.  Now she enjoys telling how in the days following the stroke, the doctor would check on her each day and ask her if she knew who the president of the United States was.  Each day, she would answer "George Bush".  Finally, she told him he needed to ask her something new.  He then asked her if she knew what the Gettysburg Address was, and............she began reciting it.  She had memorized it in grade school.  He told her she indeed knew it better than he did!

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Free Memory Screenings at more than 2,000 locations

My Mother thinks that I am always keeping tabs on her memory. After working in senior care, I have seen first hand that early detection of memory loss can make a positive difference.  I have seen senior's memories improve after starting medications and developing a regular routine with a caregiver to guide them.  I have also witnessed the agony that memory loss can cause for the senior and their loved ones, especially when proper diagnosis of the type of dementia occurs too late.

It greatly helps family relationships when everyone understands what is happening when the memory loss first begins.  Sometimes during a conversation, my Mom will inform my Dad that I am really quizzing him on his memory.  My father has a better memory than I do and so far so good with Mom.  Her father suffered from memory loss, which was never formerly diagnosed as Alzheimer's Disease, although now, looking back, we are all sure that it was.  The early diagnosis and tests were not widely performed 20 years ago.  I remember that my Grandfather would "read" the Wall Street Journal upside down,- which actually might not be a bad idea with the recent market turmoil -a different view might be nice.  But that was just one example of some of the ongoing confusion he experienced.

On November 18th, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) will offer free memory screenings at more than 2,000 local sites across the country as part of its 6th annual National Memory Screening Day.

This annual initiative is aimed at promoting early detection of memory problems and appropriate intervention.
The AFA encourages adults with memory concerns, a family history of Alzheimer's disease or a desire to establish a baseline score for future comparison to get screened and to pick up educational materials about memory concerns, successful aging and local resources.
Alzheimer's disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The face-to-face screening takes approximately five minutes and consists of a series of questions and tasks. Sites, spanning all 50 states, include the entire chain of Kmart pharmacies, senior centers, houses of worship, assisted living facilities and doctor's offices.
The results do not represent a diagnosis, and screeners encourage those with abnormal scores as well as those who still have concerns to pursue a full medical exam.
How are they able to pay for this?  The drug companies are sponsors - so another good reason to take advantage of the free memory screening since you are sort of paying for it anyway through your medication purchases.
If you are a caregiver for a senior, find out if there is a location in your area.
For information about National Memory Screening Day, including screening sites, visit http://www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484. 
 
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Social Security Benefit Increase Announced Today

Today the government announced retired seniors will receive a raise in pay starting January, 2009.  It is the largest increase in Social Security benefits for seniors in more than 2 decades.  On average, seniors will receive an additional $63 per month with the 5.8 percent increase in this senior retirement benefit.  Seniors can begin receiving Social Security benefit payments at age 62 or wait until age 65 for an increased benefit amount.

The typical American senior who has activated their social security benefits receives about $1090.00 per month.  This amount barely covers living expenses, which can cause added stress when medical conditions require caregiving services, medications or other treaments not covered by Medicare insurance.

About 50 million seniors receive Social Security benefits and with the increases in food and gas costs we have experienced in the past year, living on a fixed income has become more challenging.

You may find out your expected monthly social security check payment, based on your current age and income, on the government's website:  www.ssa.gov

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