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Most Americans Will Need Long-Term Care, But Few Plan for It

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research recently announced the publication and availability of a major survey that provides a new baseline of understanding about what Americans 40 years or older believe about their need for long-term care services, what such care would cost, and how such issues fit into their concerns about growing older. The survey reveals that while there is widespread concern among this population about the need for long-term care, little is being done to plan for it.

“It is estimated that 70 percent of Americans who reach the age of 65 will need some form of long-term care for an average of three years each,” said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center. “The rapidly aging population brings with it important social and public policy questions about preparing for and providing quality long-term care. This survey establishes what Americans 40 and over understand about the need for long-term care and reveals troubling facts about what is being done to prepare for it.”

Statistics about the aging of America are compelling. Population projections for 2030 show that older Americans—the classic Baby Boom generation—will make up 19 percent of the population, up from 12 percent today and totaling 72 million people. To deepen understanding and to provide accurate information about long-term care issues, the AP-NORC Center carried out its survey by conducting 1,019 interviews with a nationally representative sample of adults who are at least 40 years old.

Critical issues revealed by the survey include:

  • There are widespread misperceptions of the cost of long-term care, with most underestimating the cost of nursing home care and overestimating what Medicare will cover.
  • Nearly one-third of older Americans would rather not think about getting older at all, and when prompted, a majority worry about losing their independence. Significant majorities prioritize factors that promote independence as they age such as homes with no stairs; and living close to family members, health care services, and stores.
  • While few are setting aside funds to deal with long-term care issues, there is broad concern about key issues of aging such as loss of mental ability, being a burden to family, leaving unpaid debts, and being alone without family or friends.
  • Though Americans 40 years or older are concerned about issues of aging, only 41 percent have taken the step of talking about long term care preferences with their families, and only 35 percent have set aside money to pay for long term care needs.
  • There is faith in family, with 68 percent of Americans age 40 or older feeling they can rely on their family a great deal or quite a bit in time of need, with another 15 percent saying they can rely on their family for at least a moderate level of support.
  • There is majority support for public policy options for financing long-term care, with more than 75 percent in favor of tax incentives to encourage saving for long-term care expenses and 51 percent in favor of a government administered plan.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of perceptions, experiences, and attitudes of Americans about long-term care was conducted from February 21 through March 27, 2013 with 1,019 adults age 40 or older. AP and NORC staff collaborated on all aspects of the study, with input from NORC’s Health Care Department and AP’s subject matter experts. Additional information, including the Associated Press stories and the survey’s complete topline findings, can be found on the AP-NORC Center’s website (www.apnorc.org). Funding for the survey was provided by The SCAN Foundation (www.thescanfoundation.org).

Source: Associated Press-NORC Center (www.apnorc.org)

Could a “Brain Pacemaker” Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

More than 5 million Americans today are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and the Alzheimer’s Association predicts that by 2025, over 7 million will have this form of dementia. At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but new treatments are under investigation.

Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have a study underway to determine whether deep brain stimulation (DBS) can improve thinking and function in people with Alzheimer’s. Deep brain stimulation is similar to a cardiac pacemaker device, but is placed in the brain rather than in the heart. “Basically the pacemakers send tiny signals into the brain that regulate the abnormal activity of the brain and normalize it more,” says neurosurgeon Dr. Ali Rezai, who is director of the OSU neuroscience program. At present, DBS is in use to successfully treat 100,000 patients who are living with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

Dr. Rezai and colleague Dr. Douglas Scharre will be placing the devices in the brains of ten research subjects in an ongoing FDA-approved study. Says Dr. Rezai “Right now, from what we’re seeing in our first patient, I think the results are encouraging, but this is research. We need to do more research and understand what’s going on.” He says, “If the early findings that we’re seeing continue to be robust and progressive, then I think that will be very promising and encouraging for us.”

The study, which will enroll people with mild or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, will help determine if DBS has the potential to improve cognitive, behavioral and functional deficits. It will conclude in 2015. The Ohio State neurology team are pioneers in the use of DBS in Parkinson’s disease, and are also testing the devices on people with traumatic brain injuries and obesity.

Does Delayed Retirement Keep Younger Workers Underemployed?

Americans are retiring later. Studies show that the average planned retirement age has risen to a record age 67—and in reality, many seniors are working well beyond that age. They put off retirement for economic reasons, and also cite the desire to remain active and engaged. More and more seniors say that their work is an important part of their life and they enjoy it.

Often as not, articles about this trend include quotes from younger workers who speak in a resentful tone, claiming that late-retiring baby boomers will mean fewer job opportunities for younger workers. Some pundits say that older workers are “crowding out” the Gen X and Millennial workers from the labor market. But are these claims true?

A recent study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College suggests the idea of a generation war in the workplace is a misconception. Examining data from 1977 – 2011, the economists demonstrated that in fact, older workers’ employment has no negative impact on the hourly wages or annual income of younger people. The study authors said, “This horse has been beaten to death. The evidence suggests that greater employment of older persons leads to better outcomes for the young—reduced unemployment, and a higher wage.”

You can read the full study on the Center for Retirement Research Center Boston College website . The Pew Charitable Trust also offers a discussion of the findings.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2013

Foot Care; Diabetes Care – Take Good Care of Your Feet

What Makes Feet Hurt?

Most of us start life with trouble-free feet. What goes wrong? Of hundreds of known foot ailments, most can be traced to:

  • heredity
  • improper foot care
  • injury (often caused by shoes and socks or stockings that don’t fit well)
  • the effects of aging.

Women have about four times as many foot problems as men. As you might guess, high-heeled, narrow shoes are often the culprit.

Even a small problem with the feet can make walking difficult and painful. So taking care of your feet pays off in a big way.

Constant weight-bearing over the years may cause feet to spread and flatten, especially across the front part of the foot. You may find that you need a wider and longer shoe as you age. Be sure the shoe fits before you wear it!

Common Foot Problems

Corns and calluses

Corns and calluses are caused by repeated friction and pressure from shoes. If the first signs of soreness are ignored, corns and calluses rise up as nature’s way of protecting sensitive areas.

Neither calluses nor corns have roots under the skin; they are simply thick layers of dead skin cells. However, the pressure of this hard mass on sensitive nerves in the skin can be painful.

Many people develop calluses under the ball (the front part) of the foot. Your doctor can arrange padding to prevent worsening of this problem.

At the first sign of tenderness, pads placed on the skin around the calluses will help protect the area. (Pads over the callus will increase the pressure.)

Bunions

A bunion is a deformity at the big toe joint. It occurs when the big toe slants outward at an angle and becomes swollen or tender. Bunions can be inherited, or caused by wearing shoes that are too narrow in the forefoot. Sometimes bunions are a sign of developing arthritis in older people.

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus. Painful itching between toes, cracked or scaly skin, small blisters and red, irritated skin patches are usually signs of athlete’s foot or other fungal or bacterial conditions.

The best way to help prevent athlete’s foot infection is to keep feet clean and dry with a daily washing. Be especially careful to dry between toes. Use a foot powder to help feet stay drier through the day.

Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails have corners which have been crowded by the skin. To prevent ingrown toenails, trim nails straight across with toenail clippers. Do not round off corners. The nail should be kept trimmed to protect it from pressure and irritation. After clipping, smooth nails with a file.

To ease the pain of an ingrown toenail, wear open-toed sandals and soak feet in warm water once or twice a day.

Hammertoe

Hammertoe is a hooked or claw-like deformity that affects millions. The most common forms are acquired, and shoes or stockings that cramp the toes may be a factor. Toe joints contract, and over a period of time, a bulge forms at the top of the joint. Hammertoes can affect overall balance and comfort.

Blisters

Blisters are caused by poor-fitting shoes and socks. If blisters occur, don’t pop them—you may cause infection. If a blister breaks on its own, carefully wash the area, apply antiseptic, cover with a sterile bandage during the day, and uncover at night to let the skin breathe.

Poor blood circulation

Your feet are the “outer reaches” of your circulatory system. So cold temperatures, pressure, inactivity or smoking can restrict the circulation of blood to them. The signs are persistent, unusual feelings of cold, numbness, tingling, burning or fatigue in feet and legs. Other symptoms may include discoloration, dry skin, absence of hair on feet or legs, or cramping or tightness in leg muscles when walking. Keep warm, exercise moderately, and have periodic medical exams.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, which is usually caused by the wear and tear of the joints that comes with age, often affects the feet and inhibits movement. Proper foot care and proper padding to cushion feet are especially important for people with this condition.

Special Care for Diabetics

Diabetes can affect blood circulation. It can also lessen feeling in the feet. So diabetics are especially vulnerable to foot problems. People with diabetes should be sure to keep the feet warm, to wear non-restrictive shoes, and to always wear shoes in order to protect the feet. Checking daily for redness, cuts and cracks can prevent them from developing into more a more serious problem. If you have diabetes, see your physician about even the most simple foot problems. Avoid cutting corns or calluses and using any remedy containing salicylic acid (an ingredient listed on labels of certain corn remedies). Trim toenails carefully to avoid breaking the skin or producing an ingrown toenail.

Learn More

April is Foot Health Awareness Month. The American Podiatric Medical Association website offers consumer information on foot care (www.apma.org/learn/index.cfm).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their recommendations for diabetic foot care (www.cdc.gov/Features/DiabetesFootHealth)

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2013

Are You Taking Advantage of Medicare Health Screenings?

Are You Taking Advantage of Medicare Health Screenings?

If you or a loved one is on Medicare, it’s smart to learn about the free screenings that are now available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to Dr. Carolyn Clancy of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHQR), these preventive and screening tests now include:

  • Bone mass measurement (also known as bone density test): Covered every 2 years.
  • Cholesterol and other cardiovascular screening: Tests for cholesterol, lipid, and triglyceride levels are covered every 5 years.
  • Colorectal cancer screening: Medicare covers colonoscopy tests once every 2 years for people at high risk; otherwise, once every 10 years.
  • Diabetes screening: Up to two fasting blood glucose tests are covered each year.
  • Flu shot: Medicare covers a shot once per flu season in the fall or winter.
  • Mammogram: Screening mammograms are covered once every 12 months. Diagnostic mammograms are covered when medically necessary.
  • Prostate cancer screening: Medicare covers a digital rectal exam once each year; prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests are covered once each year.

This is in addition to the new “Welcome to Medicare” wellness visit for people who are new to the program.

Read more about Medicare screening services on the Medicare.gov website (www.medicare.gov/coverage/preventive-and-screening-services.html)

Source: AgeWise reporting on Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality information.