Alzheimer's Disease New Treatment

Alzheimer's disease progresses at various paces and presents an ongoing challenge for senior caregivers.  The Alzheimer's Association International Conference met in Vancouver this week and announced the first medication that is showing positive results in clinical trials for slowing or halting the progression of the disease.  The treatment is an immune therapy called IVIG/Gammagard that has been given intravenously for 3 years to a small group of participants. 

The medication, made by Baxter International, follows 9 years of no new drug therapies being announced for the disease.  The participants in this therapy did not show improvement in most of the symptoms of Alzheimer's that they already had, but they also did not show any further decline on measures of cognition, memory or daily functioning or mood over the three years.

The U.S. government has announced a plan to prevent Alzheimer's disease by 2025.  As the cost of senior care can in a nursing home or in the home with a full-time caregiver be as much as $80,000 per year, this is good news.

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Ernest Borgnine, Academy Award Actor, Dies at 95

Ernest Borgnine’s face wasn’t the prettiest one on the screen, but it was oftentimes the most compelling. Mr. Borgnine ushered in an era of American cinematic realism. Rising to fame as the thug who beat Frank Sinatra to death in the movie “From Here to Eternity”, he won the Oscar for his lead role in the 1955 film “Marty”, a sad, lonely Bronx butcher looking for love.

He passed away Sunday in Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of renal failure.

My earliest memory of the actor was on the television show “McHale’s Navy”. The great ensemble sitcom that included Tim Conway and Joe Flynn. But it was Borgnine’s scheming McHale who was its most memorable character.

I remember watching him in “The Poseidon Adventure” and thinking, How did he land a babe like Stella Stevens? But then it became clear as the movie went on —he was rough and gruff, but also incredibly tender. And he was real.

He continued to work well into his 90s. A whole new generation heard him voice the character of Mermaid Man on the series Spongebob Squarepants, an aging ex-superhero whiling his time away in a cartoon nursing home, joined by his perpetual sidekick, Barnacle Boy (again, Tim Conway).

His death makes Sidney Poitier the oldest living Academy Award winning actor at 85.

Although his private life could have been tabloid fodder, he had a great sense of humor about his life. He himself made light of his 38 day marriage to Ethel Merman — but it’s the talent and body of work for which he’ll be remembered. In this Kardashian-famed age of smoke and mirrors, we at mourn the passing of a true artist of substance.
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Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

Obama Care, or the Affordable Care Act healthcare law has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.  The controversy around the healthcare law was the requirement for all Americans to have access to health insurance and be required to have health insurance.  Right now, it is very difficult for small businesses to access affordable health insurance plans as most health insurance companies only want to insure large corporations with 75% participation by workers.  This has meant senior home care agencies have not been able to provide health insurance for senior caregivers............which has always seemd a bit odd - for someone to be paid to take care of a senior but yet not be provided with health insurance benefits for themselves.

In addition, all American seniors do receive health insurance via Medicare or Medicaid at age 65.  A geriatric doctor once said to me:  "if only all of these seniors had health insurance their entire lives, the costs of providing health care at 65 and above would be much less."  He said you have no idea how many seniors have never had health insurance prior to Medicare or Medicaid.

At the same time, those of us who are individually insured may pay as much as $350 per month with a $5,000 deductible.  This is how it works for those working for small businesses or self-employed.

Senior caregivers should have access to affordable health care - the only option should not be an emergency room.  Certainly provisions will be tossed onto the truck and off the truck as we iron out a better healthcare system in the U.S.A. which includes preventive healthcare.

You may read all about the Supreme Court's decision on this live blog.  It will be exciting to see American health insurance companies roll out preventive health care plans that reward people for trying to live healthy lifestyles and to have the security of knowing everyone has access to health care - not just seniors at age 65.

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Women Serving as Caregivers Receive Less Social Security Than Men

Social Security benefits should be updated to reflect women serving as caregivers, say three national organizations who presented to Congress last week.  And, all senior caregiver employees should also receive Social Security benefits through their payroll deductions - - - all caregivers should make sure they are working for a licensed senior care company providing this benefit which will allow them to retire and collect Social Security benefits. 

Caregivers are usually women. This is not news for anyone. Senior home care agency owners can tell you that the majority of their caregiving employees are females. Nursing homes and Assisted Living communities will also agree that the majority of people applying for their jobs are women. Men simply are not as attracted to this type of work. My own brother has amazing talents from hunting to cooking to being very accomplished in his career - but he says he just can't take the hands-on care duties for our Grandmother. Yes, he'll plug her hearing aid into his ear and adjust it and make sure the batteries are working well, where I sort of am not attracted to doing that. But he isn't comfortable with assisting with caregiving duties such as bathing and toileting. Guys are just wired differently than women and science confirms this for us. We can accept this and play to our strengths. But not receiving the same pay and retirement benefits is not acceptable.


After a lifetime of lower wages and time out of the labor market for child-rearing and caregiving, women typically receive less pay from their Social Security check than men. Widows and women of color often fall into poverty in old age. This is a problem.


But what successful married man with children would not be half as successful in his career without his wife keeping the household running? My girlfriends and I joke about a board meeting of Venture Capital guys who were comfortable, in the company of women, bragging about being proud their wives were ‘stay at home’ because this meant their wives could do all of their chores and errands and scheduling for them. Yes, without a wife to do these things for them, they would need to use their own work hours, or after-work hours, to actually do these types of things. Or, they would need to hire a housekeeper or nanny to do these tasks. Even these professional men are admitting these duties are very needed and necessary in order for them to be successful.

I also heard Jack Welch, the former GE Chairman and CEO, speak once. He was on one of his book tours with wife #3, Suzy Welch (for the book titled “Winning”).  I will give him credit for being very honest when he was asked this question by an audience member: “how did you balance raising your kids while growing your career?” He answered:  “I didn’t. You would have to ask my first wife how she did that. I wasn’t around.”  He is trying to do the balancing act now with his third wife who writes his books with him and goes on book tours with him, so we'll also give him credit for this.


Life is a balancing act. Whether women engage themselves in a career or work in the home raising children, they are managing the household and part of a team. Social Security payments should honor this work and recognize this labor.


This is also why Caregiverlist advocates for all caregivers to only be hired as employees, through senior home care agencies, insuring they are receiving Social Security benefits and payroll tax contributions along with Worker’s Compensation Insurance and Professional Liability Insurance. This protects the senior and the caregiver and it is only right and fair that someone working as a senior caregiver will be able to collect Social Security benefits when they retire.

A team of leading advocates for women, including a UCSF social scientist, are seeking to correct the inequities through new proposals to reform Social Security - our nation's financial safety net for senior citizens.


Last Friday, May 11, 2012, their report was presented at a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. The authors represent three national organizations for seniors and women: the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare Foundation, the National Organization for Women Foundation (NOW), and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.


“This is an urgent call for our retirement system to catch up with the changing needs of women,’’ said the lead author of the report, Carroll L. Estes, PhD, founder and former director of the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging. She is the chair of the board of directors of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security& Medicare and its foundation.


“Social Security is crucial to the future of our children and grandchildren,’’ Estes said.“It is there for Americans when catastrophic events befall them, such as 9/11 when about 2,600 children lost a working parent. We must keep the social contract that it represents, and improve the lives of women and other workers who have paid into Social Security for decades.’’


The report, “Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling: A Proposal to Modernize Women’s Benefits,’’ examines the changing role of women in the workforce as well as the smaller incomes women receive in retirement as a result of lower wages on average and time spent out of the labor market for unpaid caregiving of children and aging parents. Retired women of color are particularly vulnerable, experiencing two to three times the poverty rates of whites.


Social Security benefits may begin as early as age 62, however, the benefit amount will be reduced and you may wait until age 70 to begin collecting in order to receive the maximum benefit based on the amounts you contributed from your paycheck.


Social Security benefits are adjusted for cost-of-living increases and your benefit amount may be impacted by military service or pensions.


The Social Security Administration provides a “Retirement Estimator” tool on their website to allow you to calculate your expected Social Security check when you retire. The maximum benefit is around $2,100.00 per month, if you paid in the maximum amount for 35 years. The average monthly benefit is around $1,230.00 as of January, 2012.


Caregiverlist provides the daily costs of nursing homes nationwide along with senior home care costs to allow you to plan for your retirement care. You may view nursing home daily costs in each state and compare the nursing home ratings based on costs.

Caregiverlist's FindtheBest Comparison tools also allow you to compare hospitals, compare Medicare plans and more, to allow you to be ready for senior care needs.

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Instagram: Tool for Connecting Seniors with Families

Senior caregivers often have the challenge of updating family members on the senior's activities or, they may be working with seniors who have very busy adult children and may need efficient ways to keep updated on care services.  Technology provides new ways to connect caregivers and seniors with family members.

Instagram brings an easy-to-use photo album to everyone's finger tips and can assist caregivers in communicating.

A picture is worth a thousand words and caregivers can share those pictures with just a few clicks on their smartphones using the application Instagram.  People use their smartphones to take pictures and want to share them in real time - without having to wait to connect their device to a computer and upload it.  Instagram allows this to happen and creates a feed of photos that have been uploaded for every user.  For caregivers, Instagram provides the opportunity to document their time with their senior clients.  

Four Uses of Instagram for Senior Caregivers:

  1. Document Shared Hobbies or Activities with a Senior Client. Taking on a project such as learning how to knit can create a bond with your senior client and you can use Instagram when you finish your projects to showcase your work.  Also, if you go for a walk, visit a museum or just enjoy making a flower arrangement together, you can take a photo and share this with the senior's family members.  After a few months, you'll have a collection of photos to look through and see your own progress.  When family members come to visit, they can also view the senior's activities.
  2. Share Photos with a Senior Client's Adult Children. Your senior client may not be plugged into the technological world but if their adult children have smartphones, you can use Instagram to post photos for them to see.  In return, you can also share photos the children post to their own profiles with your senior client so that the parent can feel connected to their adult childrens' daily lives. Caregivers can even help senior clients exchange comments back and forth on their children's photos.                                                                                                                                                                   
  3. Edit Photo's without Photo Editing Software.  Add an extra touch to photos without needing to learn photo editing software.  Instagram offers various “filters” for photos.  All you have to do is take the picture then pick from different 
    colorations and frame options. It adds an extra flair to preserve a moment exactly as you want it to look.
  4. Document a Day in the Senior's Life.  Many people use instagram almost like a photo journal of their day. Caregivers are often under-appreciated because their work is not visible to many people, but Instagram provides an opportunity to document your day. Try taking a picture at the start of every hour for one day if you want to share more about what you do with someone in your life.

Instagram is available for iPhones and iPod Touch. The application also was recently introduced to Android model phones as well, so most smartphone users can take advantage of the quick photo sharing provided for free.

Senior caregivers can now have an instant photo album in their phone, all for free.

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Caring for the Caregiver

Senior caregivers, both paid as professionals and family caregivers, are growing as the aging population increases.  In just the last decade, more than 4,000 new senior care agencies have opened their doors, to assist families in caregiving.

The National Alliance for Caregiving conducts research and advocacy for caregiving and pulls together both private corporations and associations who serve caregivers. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees who work for a company with 50 or more employees and are caring for a spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition to take unpaid leave from work.  This means an adult child who needs to assist a parent with caregiving needs may take off 12 work weeks without pay during any 12-month period.

Family caregivers often work full-time, as a the Caregiving Alliance reports:

46% of Caregivers Work Full-time

11% of Caregivers Work Part-time

15% of Caregivers are Retired

10% of Caregivers are Homemakers

7% of Caregivers are Unemployed and Looking for Work

11% of Caregivers are Students or Disabled

Senior care options in the U.S.A. include senior home care, assisted living communities who may charge extra for caregiving and nursing home care.  You may research the costs of nursing homes nationwide on Caregiverlist.  Find the daily costs of a private or shared room in a nursing home and the Medicaid and Medicare nursing homes in your area.


Senior Care Training Tools

Senior caregivers require training in order to deliver quality caregiving services and meet training requirements for licensed senior home care agencies in the states which require training.  More and more states are passing legislation to requrie standardized training for senior caregivers in order to maintain a minimum standard for care services and to protect seniors from fraudulent hire-direct scenarios.

Caregiver training also benefits the caregiver, enabling them to know the best methods for transfers, monitoring nutrition and interacting with senior's as they deal with emotional issues around aging and losing friends to death.

The Professional Association of Caregivers offers a 10-hour online caregiver training course, powered by aQuire, and meeting the skills required for training by departments of health, including the state of Illinois.

Review the caregiver training course modules and become a certified caregiver.  You may also apply for a senior caregiving job near you as a companion caregiver or Certified Nursing Aide.


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Doctors Soon Required to Report Payments from Drug Companies

Medical doctors often receive payments from drug companies for "consulting", speaking and conducting research.  Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes, research has shown, this is not so good.  This then contributes to influencing treatment decisions and contributes to higher costs via more expensive drugs and medical devices.

For instance, blood pressure can be naturally lowered through diet and breathing exercises - naturally.  How many doctors prescribe daily relaxation breathing for their patients with high blood pressure?

Diabetics can also greatly influence their outcomes by proper diet and exercise - even up to 50% or more according to studies.

Now, the new health care law will require the medical doctors to disclose the payments they may receive from drug and medical device companies each year.  An analysis by the New York Times found that about a quarter of medical doctors take cash payments from drug and device makers and nearly two-thirds accept routine gifts of food, including fancy lunches and dinners for themselves and their staff.

And, doctors who accept these payment perks do prescribe more drugs than those who do not.

Under the new standards, if a company has just 1 product covered by Medicare or Medicaid, it will have to disclose all of its payments to doctors other than its own employees.  The federal governemtn will post the payment data on a website where it will be available for the public. This will hold everyone accountable.

Companies will be fined as much as $10,000 if they fail to report payments.  This should help curb Medicare and Medicaid fraud which has been as much as $6 billion in the past.

Senior caregivers should also report fraud when they see it, as they are the eyes for many seniors and their families.  Unneeded medical equipment and prescriptions have been popular ways for companies to tap into unnecessary Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements in the past.



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Caregiver Permits Required in Napa County

Elder abuse, which is so unfortunate, continues to happen, especially by family caregivers.  Elder abuse stories permeate the news.  Recently, Joseph McCoy, 30, and Darlene Green, 54, both pleaded no contest to felony elder abuse of their grandmother and mother, respectively, in Bakersfield, California. The case was one of the worst that healthcare professionals had ever seen, according to court records.

In an effort to stem senior abuse, Napa County California began enforcing a new law requiring all home caregivers to register for a permit if they receive free room and board or any other form of compensation for caregiving. This includes family caregivers. Permits are issued after caregivers undergo background checks through the Napa County Area Agency on Aging’s website.

According to the county, for a private caregiver, the background check fee is $90 for the first year, $79 for the second year and $67 for the following year. The annual permit, issued by the Napa County clerk/recorder, costs $20 per year. In six months, Napa county has issued permits to nearly 200 caregivers.

Caregiver agencies must also submit names for background checks and purchase permits for their home caregivers. State-licensed registered nurses and certified nursing assistants are exempt from required permits.

Caregiverlist has always championed background checks for home health care workers with its Criminal Super Search with Social Security Number Match at a cost of $18 and same-day turnaround. But while this is a recommended check, most states do not require this vetting.

Will other states follow Napa County’s lead? You can keep up with the latest recommendations by checking your state’s Area Agency on Aging.

What do you think? Is the permit program launched in Napa California a good idea to help prevent elder care abuse, or do you feel it is one more bureaucratic intrusion and a way to collect fees from caregivers, especially those caring for family members?

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Caregiving Innovation Award of $10,000: Nominations Being Accepted

Caregiving programs that demonstrate innovation can be considered for a $10,000 grant/award through the National Alliance for Caregiving and MetLife Foundation.  The Innovations in Caregiving award of $10,000 will be given to 5 non-profit organizations which provide either caregiving education or support programs.

The deadline for applications is January 27, 2012.

This program, created by the MetLife Foundation and the National Alliance for Caregiving, stimulates the replication of outstanding caregiver education and support programs and best practices.  The financial support of the award, given to 5 winners, assists the organizations to allow others to replicate the programs.

An Advisory Committee, consisting of experts in caregiving, includes former National Family Caregiving Award winners.

Review the guide for submissions to the National Family Caregiving Awards and submit the application by January 27, 2012.  You may also find current senior programs in your state to assist a senior in Caregiverlist's By-State directory of senior care.

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