Category - Aging and Eldercare

Yes, You Do Have the Power to Ward off Dementia

Phillip_Toledano_01 The Tyee, By Jude Isabella

Recent science confirms conventional brain health wisdoms, and throws a few curveballs.

[Editor’s note: Science writer Jude Isabella recently attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Chicago, and her dispatches are running on The Tyee this week. Stay tuned for more.]

To live a dementia-free life, exercise, have at least one friend, live an interesting life, don’t fret, and bring your library books back on time.

Well, it’s not so much about bringing the books back on time as showing conscientiousness, and conscientiousness is good for your brain. Although if you’re neurotic and fret about bringing your books back on time, that’s probably bad for your brain.

It’s a complex road to resilient aging, and what each of us wants to know is the key to growing old without losing too many marbles. “It’s not likely to reside in any one elixir,” said Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, a psychologist at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “There’s a lot of snake oil out there.”

That whole idea of brushing your teeth with your left hand if you’re right-handed? And vice versa? There’s no evidence that increases cognition. You can, however, drink in moderation, maybe even smoke, and have fun (with other people). Phew.

Brain health is a pressing public health concern. A century ago, four to five per cent of people in North America were over age 65. Now it’s up to one-fifth of the population in some areas. (In 2011, the proportion of seniors in Canada was among the lowest of the G8 countries.)

No matter how hard they try, at least when it comes to brain health, Baby Boomers will never turn 70 into the new 20. But some of the most recent science behind resilient aging, presented at last weekend’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago, offers a few hopeful, practical suggestions for prolonging dementia as long as possible.

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Soaring number of elderly U.S. women live in extreme poverty

Raw Story, By David Ferguson

According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the number of elderly U.S. women who live in extreme poverty has spiked abruptly since the previous year. Think Progress reported that a study by the NWLC showed an 18 percent increase in the population of women over 65 who are living on less than $5,500 per year.

According to the study, in 2012, 135,000 more elder women were living in extreme poverty than in 2011, raising the national number to 733,000. Alan Pyke at Think Progress wrote, “Put another way, there are more elderly women living on $15 per day than there are residents of Detroit, Michigan.”

Study author Kate Gallagher Robbins of NWLC told NBC News, ““The cause has to be something that hits elderly individuals particularly hard. We also know that poverty for elderly men and women was statistically unchanged so we are talking about a group of individuals who went from being poor to extremely poor.”

Possible causes include the decline of the private pension system, and Gallagher said, “One factor might becuts in recent years to Social Security Administration funding which may be making applications for [Supplemental Security Income] more difficult.”

Pike wrote, “Women are more economically vulnerable than men at all life stages. They are less likely to live in economically secure households and experience higher overall poverty rates. They are paid less than men starting from the very beginning of their careers, no matter how qualified they are or how high up the job responsibility ladder they rise.

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Obama proposes brain mapping project

(BBC) – Speaking at the White House, he announced an initial $100m investment to shed light on how the brain works and provide insight into diseases such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.

President Obama said initiatives like the Human Genome Project had transformed genetics; now he wants to do the same with the brain.

The project will be carried out by both public and private-sector scientists.

The project is called Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies – or BRAIN.


The project will begin in 2014, and will involve the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The $100m investment will be used to develop new technologies to investigate how the billions of individual cells in the human brain interact.

Scientists will also focus on how the brain records, stores and processes information, and investigate how brain function is linked to behaviour.

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Bad Medicine

Run, do not walk, to the local newsstand and pick up a copy of this week’s Time Magazine for the lengthy investigative reporting done by Steven Brill on the price-gouging and profiteering of the American medical system.
From doctors to hospitals to insurance companies (which actually almost come off as heroes in this tale), Brill follows the money, and does it in-depth and in such a thorough manner that you feel what the various victims of the scamming feel as you read it: anger, terror, overwhelming intimidation.

When Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old from Lancaster, Ohio, was told last March that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his wife Stephanie knew she had to get him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Stephanie’s father had been treated there 10 years earlier, and she and her family credited the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson with extending his life by at least eight years.

Because Stephanie and her husband had recently started their own small technology business, they were unable to buy comprehensive health insurance. For $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, they had been able to get only a policy that covered just $2,000 per day of any hospital costs. “We don’t take that kind of discount insurance,” said the woman at MD Anderson when Stephanie called to make an appointment for Sean.

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A Sensible Reform To Social Security

In the wake of the fiscal bump in the road, much was left undone in fixing the economy while paying down some of the outstanding debt.
 
A lot of trial balloons are being floated, and I want to focus on one for now: Social Security.
 

Throwing Supporters Under The Bus – It’s Easy If You’re A D.C. Insider

You really should click on over to AmericaBlog to read Gaius Publius on what the DC insiderers have decided is a great deal for everyone the care about: Obama’s fiscal cliff frame: “Let’s each kill one of our own”.

Politico discusses the Klein-described deal, and in the process, confirms that this is where the discussion is being had. Politico’s first sentence (my emphasis):

The script for a fiscal cliff deal was always supposed to be simple: Democrats would win on taxes. Republicans would win on entitlements.

It’s that simple. Politico is DC insider-central on this stuff, especially when they offer throw-away assumptions like the one above. The rest of the article details how small a deal Republicans are getting — the knife cut Obama delivers to Medicare may be mainly symbolic. Fair enough. On the taxes side, the compromise tax-cut agreement may also be symbolic, as I noted in my earlier piece.

Again, the skeleton of the Obama-Boehner bargain is a mutually-agreed betrayal — “You kill one of yours, and I’ll kill one of mine.” It’s a mutual “Et tu, brute?” moment.

GP also reminds readers that  “Obamacare is privatized medical care. It forces citizens to buy medical insurance from private insurers — like United Health Care, for example — instead of offering single payer government insurance, or even a public option to compete with private insurers.” So anyone from the DC insiderer set that tells you not to worry, the less affluent affected by any cuts to Medicare will get folded into the ACA, is advocating privatizing a public healthcare plan. Don’t be fooled by their three card monte spin, it’s just more of the same old.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad “Grand Bargain” Idea

According to latte-sippers Ezra Klein and Jonathan Chait, the shape of a Grand Bargain to avoid the “fiscal cliff” is: Republicans agree to a measly rise in the top marginal tax rate to 37% and Democrats give them a two year rise in eligibility for Medicare in return.

Economists Paul Krugman and Mark Thoma agree that this is a terrible economic bargain, because it imposes more than a dollar of  costs on the private sector for every dollar it saves in federal spending.

Dave Dayen writes, in a scathing rebuttal of Chait:

Once again, Ezra, who sits at a desk for a living, can join Jon on a conference call with 65 and 66 year-olds to tell them why it’s so tolerable for them to wait two years – out of a life expectancy of another 15-20 – for Medicare benefits they paid into all their lives.  I don’t know, 10-15% reductions in the benefit sounds like a lot to me, especially when you consider that poorer people, with a lower life expectancy, lose more of the benefit.  When you add in that this only saves a meager amount of money for canceling 10-15% of the lifetime benefit, it makes it all the more horrible a trade.  And you can’t phase this in slowly if you want to save any money with it.

As for this idea that most of the pain will be blunted by the Affordable Care Act, well, the Affordable Care Act does not yet exist in tangible terms, an entire political party remains dedicated to its destruction, we have not yet begun to figure out who will fall through its cracks and why, and in at least 9 states and as many as 33, there will be no Medicaid expansion, creating a pool of uninsured poor people living under the poverty line who cannot get subsidies at all and are likely to have major health needs.  Telling them they have to wait two years for Medicare, with no other options, sounds like a great way to get them on the side of the government’s new structure for the health care system.  “But we raised taxes on people making over $250,000 a year so you could be denied health care” isn’t exactly going to thrill them as a justification.  And this is not a small percentage, new Census data points out that 15.1% of seniors live in poverty.

Karoli at Crooks and Liars:

I don’t know how old Jonathan Chait is, but I’m already screwed on my Social Security eligibility date and don’t much care for the notion of being screwed on my Medicare eligibility date, which is eleven years yonder right now.

…This is the dirty little elephant in the middle of the room that no one talks about. Because of the high demand for jobs right now, older employees are being shoved phased out earlier. Beginning at around age 50 to 55, jobs become scarce for older workers, leaving them with a 10-15 year gap before they become eligible for Social Security and Medicare. That means they’re living on their savings, home equity, or odd jobs just to scratch their way to the social safety net. Moving that football means leaving them on the hook for 2 extra years, not only for living expenses, but also covering their health insurance, whether or not subsidized.

Digby:

the most offensive part of Chait’s argument was the one in which he says that throwing people in their 60s out of Medicare would be a good way to build support for Obamacare — as if such a cruel political strategy was terribly clever, when it actually well .. kills people.
These are real human beings we’re talking about. I’m one of them. Health care wonks who know what they’re talking about understand that there are plenty of people at my age who are already getting killed in health care premiums which the calculators show aren’t going to be helped all that much by the Obamacare subsidies. I’ve just been praying I could make it to 65. I really don’t want to have to hold on any longer and tons of people in ill health are in even worse shape than I am.

Krugman writes “All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare?” as if it were news that Obama is good at promising his base progressive policies but then delivering the same old neoliberal crapola instead. he and others like Frank Moraes at The Reaction wonder how Dems will manage to get their base to turn out if this grand betrayal goes through. Haven’t they heard yet? The 2014 midterms are to be the “most important elections EVAH!” and yet again Dems will turn out on the basis that their own clots are not quite as thick as the other party’s clots.

One-third of Americans say they need to work into their 80s

Salon, By Natasha Lennard

Nearly one-third of Americans say they plan to work into their 80s since they can’t afford to retire earlier, according to a Harris Institute survey.

As Bonnie Kavoussi noted in the Huffington Post, “Retirement is becoming an unaffordable luxury for a growing number of middle-class Americans.” She attributes the increasing inability to retire at 65 and live decently to the middle-class squeeze of recent decades — a mixture of  inflation, productivity increases and stagnating wages:

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Down syndrome may be key to new Alzheimer’s treatments

Julie Steenhuysen | Chicago |  Reuters

In a new lead on Alzheimer’s research, Johnson & Johnson is bankrolling a three-year pilot study of people with Down syndrome to identify the early changes that herald dementia, which afflicts up to 75 percent of adults with the condition.

The aim is to generate support for a much bigger, public-private partnership funded by drugmakers, advocates and government agencies that will study at least 1,000 people with Down syndrome, tracking them from an early age and eventually testing treatments to keep dementia from developing.

“The study we’re proposing would provide insight into treating Alzheimer’s, but it might help individuals with Down syndrome as well,” said Dr. Husseini Manji, J&J’s global head of neuroscience drug development.

Experts in Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s who gathered in Chicago for a workshop on the idea at the Alzheimer’s Association offices this month say it may offer the best scientific model yet for testing drugs to prevent the degenerative brain disease.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting some 36 million people worldwide. Current drugs only treat symptoms, and none have yet been able to keep the fatal disease from progressing. It has proven a tantalizing prospect for drugmakers, as a success would be worth billions of dollars.

But companies have been repeatedly stung by costly failures, including recent trials of the J&J and Pfizer Inc Alzheimer’s treatment bapineuzumab. As a result, companies and researchers are looking for ways to test Alzheimer’s drugs earlier, before people’s brains become too damaged to benefit.

Studies are already planned to enroll people who carry genetic mutations that ensure they will develop Alzheimer’s at an early age. One trial backed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services will test a drug from Roche Holding AG’s Genentech unit called crenezumab in an extended family from Colombia who carry a mutation that causes them to develop Alzheimer’s in their 30s.

Only a few hundred families in the world carry these genes, and there is some worry that drugs tested in people with genetic mutations that cause early-onset Alzheimer’s may work differently in people who develop the more common late-onset Alzheimer’s, which develops after age 65.

 

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