Increasing the age of eligibility for Medicare has been a controversial issue when discussing budget-cut negotiations at the White House. The McClathy Newspapers reported that, according to White House officials the issue has not yet been eliminated, although President Obama said that it was not certain that a higher eligibility age “saves a lot of money. But what I’ve said is, let’s look at every avenue.” The Congressional Budget Office projects that slowly increasing the eligibility year for Medicare by two months a year from 2014-2027 could possibly reduce program spending by $148 billion over the next decade. More here
According to research from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, fragmented or interrupted sleep may predict future placement in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. The study, published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, asked women with a mean age of 83 to wear a device that monitored movement for at least three days and then followed up with them five years later. Compared with women who suffered few sleep disturbances, participants who spent the most time awake after initially falling asleep were three times as likely to be placed in a nursing home at the five-year follow up. Adam Spira, lead author of the study, said sleep disturbances are common in older people and, according to the results, more sleep fragmentation is associated with a greater risk of being placed in a nursing home or in a personal-care home. Previous research has linked poor sleep with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and disability in older adults. More here.
In an editorial published in the June issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Spero Tsindos of La Trobe University argues that efforts to convince people they need to drink more water are based on business interests rather than good health. For years, people have been encouraged to drink more water in order to improve their health, lose weight, and nourish their bodies. According to Tsindos, our bodies need about two liters of fluid each day but that two liters can include water consumed through food, coffee, tea, and other sources. Tsindos says research has revealed that water eaten in food has a greater benefit in weight reduction and beverages like tea and coffee contribute to a person’s fluid needs. Tsindos links the effort to increase water consumption to bottled water, though he stresses the importance of drinking water and maintaining fluid balance. More here.
After reviewing medical literature produced between 1978 and 2009, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York concluded that there is a lack of evidence on overuse of medical services, with the exception of a few areas of limited study. Overuse, defined as services performed that have no benefit or do more harm than good, account for an estimated 30 percent of U.S. healthcare spending. But despite the staggering amount of waste produced by unnecessary medical treatment, diagnostic tests, medication, and therapeutic procedures, there is very little collected data on the issue and the majority of available studies concentrated on the overuse of antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections and three cardiovascular procedures. The authors said that understanding the prevalence of overuse in healthcare services is necessary in order to improve quality and eliminate waste. More here and here.
According to a recent survey of 52,000 people conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three Americans was in a family experiencing financial struggles due to medical expenses. One in five people were in a family having trouble paying medical bills and one in 10 was in a family that had medical bills they were unable to pay at all. The survey was the most comprehensive study conducted by the CDC on the issue and may be the largest of its kind. But though the results portray a large portion of the nation struggling with medical bills, experts warn that the statistics may be skewed by the fact that many Americans have been cutting back on health and medical spending. Among people over the age of 65, low-income Americans were more than three times as likely to be in a family that had problems paying for medical care over the past year. More here.
There are an estimated 5.4 million Americans suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and, by 2050, that number is expected to triple, costing $1 trillion in medical and nursing-home expenses. Because of the staggering numbers associated with the disease, the federal government has announced the first National Alzheimer’s Plan, which sets 2025 as a target for developing more effective treatments, addressing the medical and social problems of dementia, and developing ways to prevent the illness. Harry Johns, president of the Alzheimer’s Association and one of the advisers working on the plan, said what is important is developing a comprehensive plan that deals with the needs of people who already have the disease. The plan, which is still being written, is the first to deal with the issue of Alzheimer’s and the rapidly aging American population. More here.
A recent survey found that, among people ages 65 and older, 83 percent said they have no plans to stop driving and 36 percent said they had never thought about it. Developed by Florida State University and the Florida Department of Transportation, the survey addresses the need for seniors to have a plan if, and when, they are no longer able to drive, as well as the risk of accidents among elderly drivers. When asked how they’d get around if they were no longer able to drive, 40 percent of respondents said they’d rely on family and friends, while 26 percent said they’d walk and 15 percent felt there was no other alternative to driving. Though the survey focused on Floridians, the issue is of concern nationwide as the number of American seniors increases. More here.
A study published in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has found higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use among seniors suffering from financial stress. The researchers followed 2,300 Americans over the age of 65 between 1992 and 2006 and found a link between the number of participants that reported financial strain and those who began drinking and smoking more. Among them, older men faced the greatest risk. Older men with money trouble were 30 percent more likely to become heavy drinkers than those who remained financial stable. Benjamin A. Shaw, lead researcher of the study, said financial stress can be particularly difficult for older adults and many people turn to alcohol and tobacco to cope with that stress. More here.