Dr. Sanjay Gupta: New Surgeon General?

Apparently Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of CNN fame, has accepted the job of Surgeon General.  And now the news media is talking about how appropriate this choice may be.

He is a medical doctor.  And he clearly knows what the issues are since he is on the front lines with daily news deadlines which also means he can communicate and hustle......probably all qualities that will serve him well as Surgeon General.  I think it is quite fine that the choice is not a government official.  It is kind of refreshing, actually.  Especially when you consider government officials came up with a "donut hole" for medication coverage for seniors.  That program would never had sold in the private sector. 

CNN's Dr. Gupta is known for promoting a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise for longterm health.

The grim reality is that many seniors do suffer mobility, breathing and heart problems because of years of unhealthy living.  Improper diet, smoking and lack of exercise have contributed to a decline in their health.  Advances in medicine have enabled them to stay alive with medications, oxygen and medical equipment, but this is at an added cost to Medicare and to taxpayers.  And it means family and professional Caregivers, at an additional cost, are needed to help them get through each day.  Certainly many seniors could not have prevented their medical issues.  But many other seniors perhaps could have limited their medical issues with a change in lifestyle (and this applies to all of us, at all ages, right?).

As a side note, there has also been new mentions of a "nanny issue" (a nanny was hired but payroll taxes were sort of not paid, which is an issue if you were the employer of the nanny who did not pay the taxes and may be taking an appointed government job) for one of Obama's nominees......another reason to realize the value of using a Senior Home Care Agency for senior care services - professional management will insure that taxes are taken care of as part of the payroll benefits, along with substantial insurance protections such as Worker's Compensation Insurance and Professional Liability Insurance......those who think they are saving some pennies by skirting taxes with a hire-direct caregiver should think at least twice before they go this route.  An uninsured Caregiver can sue their employer (the senior) for many things and no protections are in place.....and the IRS can hold the senior responsible if the Caregiver does not pay their payroll taxes (and if you are going to be appointed to a government job, senior caregivers are in the same boat as nannies when it comes to paying taxes).

 

, , , ,

A Caregiver

The number of people aged 65 and older who have moved from one state to another in the last decade has increased by 65%, accrording to a national survey by one of the leading long-term care insurance providers.  Retirement brings many choices for living options, from relocating to a warmer climate to moving to be closer to family.  At the same time, with many advancements in medical care and the availability of more medications to treat age-related ailments, we are living better longer.

As the new year begins, it is a good time to talk about what type of living situation your senior family members would like if their care needs change.  Medical emergencies can always arise and it is added peace of mind to already have had the conversation with your loved ones about where they would like to receive care.  Do they wish to have care provided in the home and do they want to move to assisted living?  My mother's parents were more progressive and made the move to downsize and sell their home and move to be near my Aunt as they began to experience more health problems.  This was a welcome move as they lived hours away from the nearest family member.  Especially if you do not live in the same city as your senior relatives, you should discuss the plan for care and make sure everyone understands the senior's wishes.

My Grandma ended up being a caregiver to my Grandfather, who suffered from memory loss, for several years and she set the example for the rest of us to plan ahead, and, to be there in sickness and in health.

Happy New Year!

, ,

Caregiving Vitamins

Caregivers often monitor the medications of those they care for, and doctors typically prescribe vitamins to go along with the medications for seniors.  So what about making sure Caregivers are taking the right vitamins?

As more and more research has shown which vitamins are best for certain conditions, learning about the proper vitamin supplements at any age can lead to healthy aging.  Caregivers, especially, deal with lots of stress and proper nutrition, supplemented with vitamins, can be beneficial to avoiding a breakdown in the immune system.

Depending on your family history, you may want to find vitamin supplements for memory, bone and vision loss.  Talk to your doctor about what vitamin combination would be best for you based on the latest research.

One example is the results of a study from Johns Hopkins University which suggested that vitamins C and E taken together may slow down the progress of Alzheimer's disease.  While the study does not prove that vitamins C or E prevent Alzheimer's and more research would be needed to come to that conclusion, this is one of many studies which medical doctors use to guide their individual prescriptions for vitamins.

And, since Caregivers are already monitoring medications, it is easy to take their own vitamins at the same time.  Find out what vitamins are right for you as you take time to take care of the Caregiver!

, ,

NFL Begins to Help Former Players with Dementia

Frank DeFord reported on NPR this past week that former Baltimore Colts football star, John Mackey, suffers from dementia.  And, due to efforts by John Mackey's wife and other players and their wives, the NFL and the player's union have started the "88 Plan" (named after Mackey's old football number).  The 88 Plan assists players with dementia.

The NFL does not admit that perhaps head injuries in football and the helmuts that were worn back in the early days of the game, which were not as protective as today's helmuts, contributed to player's experiencing dementia, but at least they are willing to help now.

The NFL has also developed a comprehensive study of brain damage and dementia in players and the results will be revealed in 2010.

John Mackey's wife, Sylvia, also went back to work as a flight attendante when she was 56 to help make ends meet while caring for John, and to get the benefit of health insurance.  Finally, she had to place John in a nursing home to provide for his care.  Caregivers have even more challenges when caring for a physically large person, and former football players fit into this category.  And, when dementia starts when someone is younger, the challenge of financially providing for care is also presented as often they continue to be healthy physically.

The "88 Plan" has now been written into the NFL's labor agreement and provides up to $88,000 a year for nursing care or day care for ex-players with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or $50,000 for home care.  This will help both former football players who suffer dementia as part of aging and those who are not yet elderly.

Let's hope the NFL's move to provide for their employees who develop dementia will also spread to other industries to prevent financial devastation to families when memory loss develops - and remember that long-term care insurance, which can be purchased privately, also helps pay for these care costs.

And, cheers to Sylvia Mackey for successfully advocating for change in NFL benefits.

 

 

, , , ,

Peter Falk's Daughter Says He Has Alzheimer's Disease

Those of us who are old enough to remember the television detective series "Columbo", know the beloved actor Peter Falk, 81-years-old, who played Columbo.  Others may remember him as the Grandfather who narrates the story of "The Princess Bride" movie to his grandson. 

Catherine Falk is seeking a court's approval for a conservatorship of her father, who she claims no longer recognizes people. A hearing has been scheduled for late January.

Falk won four Emmys in his role as Columbo.  He was also nominated twice for Academy Awards for movie roles in 1959 and 1960.

The petition filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court states Falk lives in Beverly Hills with his wife and recently had hip surgery and requires constant care.  Earlier this year, there were incidents where Falk spoke or acted out of the ordinary and now this diagnosis explains it.  It is also reported that he requires full-time caregiving services at this time.  It is always more difficult for the family when care issues are not already decided prior to the development of memory loss.  Perhaps his daughter will be able to quickly reach court approval for his proper care needs.  However, the actor is married so there may be other issues to resolve.  This is a reminder to all of us to set-up a trust which will dictate our caregiving and financial arrangements should we be unable to manage them on our own.
, ,

Cold Sore Virus Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

Last week, Science Daily reported that University of Manchester researchers have discovered the cold sore virus is a major cause of the insoluble protein plaques found in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

This discovery could lead to new medications and vaccinations for treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.  This is welcome news for seniors suffering from memory loss.

The researchers believe the herpes simplex virus is a significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s Disease and could be treated by antiviral agents such as acyclovir, which is already used to treat cold sores and other diseases caused by the herpes virus.

Alzheimer's disease causes progressive memory loss and severe cognitive impairment. It affects over 20 million seniors (average age of on-set is in the 50’s) world-wide, and these numbers rise with increasing longevity. 

The underlying causes of Alzheimer’s Disease are still unknown and current treatments only assist in slowing the progression of the disease.

The research found most people with Alzheimer’s Disease are infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1 when they are younger and this virus remains in their peripheral nervous system.  The virus causes cold sores in 20 to 40% of those infected with it.  Evidence of a viral role in Alzheimer’s Disease would point to the use of antiviral agents to stop progression of the disease.

The team had discovered much earlier that the virus is present in brains of many elderly people and that in those people with a specific genetic factor, there is a high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The findings of this research are published in the Journal of Pathology.  Professional and family caregivers assisting a senior with Alzheimer's Disease should discuss the findings of this new research with their medical doctor.

, ,

President-Elect Obama's Positions on Health Care Reform

As seniors analyze their Medicare options before the end of the year, it may also be a good time to learn more about
President-Elect Obama's positions on health care reform.  During the 2008 Presidential campaign, President-Elect Barack Obama announced a comprehensive health care reform proposal and laid out his positions on a number of other key health care issues.
Budget cuts will be necessary with the government's need to budget for the necessary economic booster programs and financial bailouts.  At the same time, President-Elect Obama's team has said they will be eliminating some of the government fat and favors implemented for special interest groups.  Many critics of the Medicare drug program have indicated that the prescription plans were somewhat out of whack because of the drug company's involvement through lobbying efforts (and when you try to understand why anyone would create a program with a "donut hole" as a term needed to explain coverage when a senior is left out of the prescription plan for a window of time, a red flag seems to go up that perhaps seniors best interests were not the only driver of this Medicare program).
Right now, Medicaid pays for long-term care in a nursing home, but not in the home (except in a few small population states which have recently developed home care programs).  Medicare only pays for caregiving in a nursing home and not in the home, yet statistics show most seniors prefer to stay in their homes for long-term care.  And, with the cost of nursing home care being from $150 - $350 per day, and home care costing from $18 - $25 an hour and providing one-on-one care from a caregiver, it may be time to look at how the government is allocating the funds for senior care.

The Kaiser Family Foundation prepared two reports to summarize President-Elect Obama's campaign health care policies and positions. They are based on information compiled from Obama's campaign Web site, speeches, campaign debates and news reports.  Check it out and let your voice be heard.

 

, ,

Medicare Coverage Plans

Until December 31st, Medicare-eligible beneficiaries have the opportunity to manage costs by signing up or switching their current coverage in Medicare prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans.  During this time, Medicare beneficiaries may either enroll in or switch plans.

Remind your senior relatives to review thier "Annual Notice of Change" advising them about upcoming company-mandated changes to existing plans. 

Educate yourself, too.  There are 4 parts of Medicare.

Part A:  Includes hospital coverage

Part B:  Provides coverage for doctor's visits

Part C:  Medicare Advantage plan which means Medicare pays a private insurance company to provide and administer your Medicare and your plans' benefit

Part D:  Prescription drug coverage

And, remember, Medicare does NOT pay for long-term care, just short stays in a nursing home for rehabilitation.  Long-term care insurance is one solution for care needs, along with private pay.

 

 

, ,

Planning for a 30-Year + Retirement

As the financial markets fall, many retirees are very concerned as they watch the value of their investments fall by 25% or more.  In addtion to investments in the stock market, many maintain the bulk of their assets in home ownership and have watched real estate values decline as well.  While Social Security benefits provide some support, they do not allow a senior to enjoy the same income they did prior to retirement.

According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy in the United States is at a record high of 77.8 years and will continue to increase.  As a country of wealth and knowledge, we know how to stay alive longer, although we may not always remain in optimal health for all of these years.

Remember as you plan for retirement to keep in mind you most likely will need resources for at least another 30 years after you retire.  Outline your investments, and your plan for healthy living accordingly.  And remember, if you were to run out of money completely and need support for long-term care, the U.S. does offer Medicaid as a benefit for very low-income seniors.  Medicaid does provide for long-term care in a nursing home and in the home, too, in a handful of states.

 

 

 

 

, ,

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!

, , ,
Log in