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In the News

In the News: Staggering Shortage of Geriatric Specialists

A 2005 American Geriatrics Society report found that, of more than 650,000 practicing physicians nationwide, fewer than 7,000 were certified geriatricians.

Despite the potential to serve an estimated 71 million aging Baby Boomers who will need care in 2030, the ranks of geriatricians have actually decreased over the past few years. There were about 440 fewer geriatricians in 2006 than in 2004, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties. 

The Geriatrics Society estimates that the nation will have a staggering shortfall of about 36,000 geriatricians by 2030.

Learn the full story about declining medical care for Americans as we age in Fighting for a Fighting Chance – Do Doctors Give Up on the Elderly?, a feature article in the January 2007 edition of Caregiver’s Home Companion.

In the News: Elderly Hospitalized Mostly for Heart Disease, Pneumonia

Cardiac-related conditions such as congestive heart failure, hardening of the arteries, heart beat irregularities, and heart attack account for four of the five most common principal diagnoses for hospitalizing elderly patients, according to a new report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Here are highlights from the report:

  • Collectively, these five conditions accounted for nearly 2.4 million hospital stays in 2004.
  • Pneumonia was the second-leading condition with 713,000 admissions.
  • The next five leading reasons for hospitalizing the elderly included osteoarthritis, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rehabilitation care and fluid and electrolyte disorders, such as abnormally high sodium levels in the blood.
  • The leading causes of hospitalization of the elderly have remained largely consistent since 1997, according to AHRQ.
  • But what it costs hospitals to treat elderly patients has not remained consistent. The average hospital stay for elderly patients cost hospitals $9,800 in 2004 – an increase of more than 25% increase over the $7,800 average cost in 1997.

AHRQ’s statistics were drawn from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of all short-term, non-federal hospitals. The data covers hospitals that comprise 90% of all discharges in the United States and includes all patients, regardless of insurance type as well as the uninsured.

Click here to see previous news and numbers from AHRQ.

In the News: Crestor Study Raises More Safety Issues

For the legions of caregivers and elderly who battle cholesterol issues, there's more trouble for Crestor, the Astra-Zeneca statin that's been the target of safety complaints. Researchers from Tufts-New England Medical Center have found that Crestor has the poorest safety profile of the most commonly used anti-cholesterol drugs, the others being Lipitor, Zocor and Pravachol.

The study, published in the latest issue of Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, found the most serious reactions resulted in damage to the kidney (proteinuria/nephropathy), and muscle (rhabdomyolysis), which frequently resulted in patients requiring hospitalization.

In March, the FDA issued a public health advisory outlining the identified risks and benefits of Crestor but critics argued the agency didn't go far enough. David Graham, a safety researcher at the FDA, had singled out the drug as deserving closer safety scrutiny during congressional hearings last fall.

The advocacy group Public Citizen has also targeted Crestor and issued a blistering denunciation of the FDA's action, calling it "another example of the agencys dangerous cowardice in failing to adequately protect people in this country from uniquely dangerous prescription drugs."

But the lead author of the Tufts study said it's important not to overstate the dangers of the drug.

"It is very important to note that as a family, statins are very safe drugs that have clearly been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease," said Richard H. Karas, MD, PhD, lead author of the study.

"Although rosuvastatin (Crestor) was found to be less safe than others, it does not mean patients should immediately stop taking this medication."

"In fact, the overall risks of rosuvastatin remain low, and people taking this drug should talk to their doctor before deciding whether to continue on it or stop it," Karas emphasized.

Karas and his colleagues analyzed 145 rosuvastatin-associated adverse events reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over its first year of marketing and compared the rates of such events with other statins simultaneously and during their respective first year of marketing.

The review found that with either comparison, rosuvastatin (Crestor) was significantly more likely to be associated with rhabdomyolysis, proteinuria, nephropathy or kidney failure.

"This study raises concern about the safety of this drug at the range of doses currently used in common clinical practice in the general population," said Karas. "I would advise healthcare providers to consider other statins as first-line therapy, to initiate therapy in appropriate patients at lower doses, to consider combination LDL-C lowering therapy, and to closely monitor patients for adverse events if rosuvastatin (Crestor) is used."

(Article courtesy of ConsumerAffairs.com)

In the News: A Portrait of Older America?s Health, By the Numbers

Caregivers most often draw a picture of older Americans through their eyes and experience caring for their own elderly loved ones. But how does that view stack up against the government?s research picture of this fast-growing population segment?

The recently-released government study Older Americans 2004: Key Indicators of Well-Being concludes that the 12% of our population over age 65 is generally healthier, wealthier, and better educated than previous generations, but these gains have not been equal. Here are highlights of their health research:

  • Americans are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy at age 65 increased to more than 19 years for women and about 16 years for men, and at age 85 it was 7 years for women and 6 years for men.
  • The age-adjusted proportion of older Americans with a chronic disability declined from about 25% in 1984 to 20% in 1999 (most recent data). The disabled declined from 19% to 15% for men 65 and over and from 28% to 23% for women 65 and over.
  • In 2002, nearly half of all older men and nearly a third of older women reported trouble hearing without a hearing aid. Vision problems, even with glasses or contact lenses, affected 18% of the older population, specifically 16% of men and 19% of women.
  • There?s a dramatic increase in elderly obesity. In 1999-2002, 69% of our elderly were overweight or obese. Between 1976-1980 and 1999-2002, people 65-74 who were overweight or obese rose from 57% to 73%; those who were obese doubled from 18% to 36%.
  • Older men who currently smoke dropped from 29% in 1965 to 10% in 2002. In turn, women smokers declined only slightly from 10% to 9% in 2002.
  • Medicare pays for just over half (54%) of the overall healthcare costs of its enrollees. This population pays 21% of their healthcare costs out-of-pocket. Medicaid covers 10%, and other payers, primarily private insurers, cover 15% more.
  • Average prescription drug costs for older Americans increased rapidly throughout the 1990s, especially after 1997. Average costs per non-institutionalized Medicare enrollee were $1,340 in 2000. Their average number of filled prescriptions rose substantially over time, averaging 18 filled prescriptions in 1992 and 30 filled in 2000.

The complete report is available from the National Center for Health Statistics by calling toll free 866-441-NCHS (6247) or by sending an e-mail to nchsquery@cdc.gov.

In the News: Cruising Through Old Age ? Literally!
In a recent twist on traditional assisted living, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that living on a cruise ship has become a feasible and cost-effective alternative to brick-and-mortar assisted living facilities.

In fact, the Journal, reporting in its November issue, described the at-sea option as providing the elderly with services that parallel, and in some cases surpass, those of land-locked facilities.

The question now is: will assisted living operators take this option seriously?

?Offering many amenities, such as three meals a day with escorts to meals, physicians on site and housekeeping/laundry services, a cruise ship could be considered a floating assisted living facility,? said Dr. Lee Lindquist, instructor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and co-author of the article.

?Seniors who enjoy travel, have good or excellent cognitive function, and require some assistance with activities of daily living are ideal candidates for cruise ship care,? Lindquist said.

Lindquist and colleague Robert Golub compared costs for seniors over a 20-year life expectancy after moving to assisted living facilities, nursing homes and a cruise ship, including costs of treating acute illness, Medicare reimbursement and other factors.

They found that the net costs of cruise ship living were only about $2,000 higher ($230,000 vs. $228,000) than those associated with the assisted living facilities but resulted in higher quality over the 20-year period.

For example, MetLife reported in its annual survey of assisted-living costs a national average of $2,524 per month or $30,288 per year. Stamford, Connecticut, was the most expensive location at $4,327 a month, and the cheapest was Miami at $1,340. According to the MetLife study, some high-end facilities charge as much as $4,000 or more per month.

By contrast, one month sailing on the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas costs $2,651, the researchers reported.

In the News: One-Third of Nursing Homes Lack Basic Fire Protection
How safe are the nation?s nursing homes from fire? A recent survey by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that nearly one-third of the nation?s 16,300 nursing homes do not have automatic sprinklers to fight a fire. Many do not even have smoke detectors.

Congress ordered the GAO study after nursing home fires killed 31 people last year in Connecticut and Tennessee. The study concluded that the federal government had not done enough to make homes safe for elderly residents.

As a result, Medicare officials are rewriting safety standards for nursing homes, requiring all resident rooms to be equipped with smoke detectors and facilities to install sprinkler systems. The rules should take effect over the next few years.

The rule of thumb has been that newer homes have sprinklers and smoke detectors, but older ones without sprinkler systems haven?t even been required to install smoke detectors.

For now, caregivers are advised to check out this important detail when they research nursing homes for family.

In the News: Can Gingko Effectively Treat Dementia?
British researchers are studying whether the circulatory supplement gingko can be used to effectively treat early dementia. Especially important will be whether this herb can blunt dementia early on, if taken in a home environment rather than a hospital.

Gingko comes from a Chinese gingko biloba tree and is used to treat circulatory problems. The herb is believed to cause blood vessels to dilate, improving blood flow to the brain, and to thin the blood, making it less likely to clot. Gingko may also have antioxidant effects, protecting nerve cells against biological ?rusting.?

?All of these effects would suggest that gingko might slow down a degenerative process such as dementia,? said Dr. James Warner, a psychiatrist from Imperial London College, who is leading the study.

Gingko also could be a cheap alternative to conventional medicines, with fewer side effects. Gingko, available over the counter, costs about $360 for a year?s supply, compared to $1,800 for conventional medicines such as cholinesterase inhibitors.

In the News: What?s the 'Hang-up' with Medicare?
It seems that healthcare providers are having a difficult time getting straight answers on billing policy from Medicare.

A recent survey of Medicare call centers by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only 4% of its test calls to Medicare call centers regarding proper billing procedures were answered completely and correctly.

GAO concluded that Medicare officials are not properly overseeing the call centers, and noted that the controlling Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) hadn?t performed an evaluation of call centers since 2002.

The GAO report is available on the agency?s website at www.gao.gov/new.items/d04669.pdf.

In the News: Study: Daily Soft Drinks Double Diabetes Risk
Next time you reach for a sugared soft drink, think of this: drinking just one sugar-sweetened soft drink a day will double your chances of contracting diabetes, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Conversely, drinking a sugared soft drink only once a month found the risk of diabetes at half that of the daily drinkers, according to the JAMA article.

The findings derived from the first large-scale study to examine what has been a suspected link between diabetes and frequent sugared soft drink consumption. The study followed 91,000 nurses and their habits as a part of a much larger, long-running study at Harvard University on diet, health and disease.

In the News: It?s a Bad Flu Comin?
It?s only happened three times in the past century, but President Bush has warned that the coming flu season could see a worldwide epidemic and affect the lives of hundreds of thousands here in the United States.

The major reason: the early spread of Avian Flu, or bird flu, in Asia. This is a powerful flu strain that has medical and government experts worried because it spreads particularly easily among humans. Flu can be especially punishing on the elderly and young children, and the indications this season leave both age groups especially vulnerable.

There have been three flu pandemics in the last century, the worst in 1918, which killed more than 500,000 Americans and 20 million people worldwide.

While it is impossible to accurately predict the toll from the next flu pandemic, a new government response planned obtained recently by The Associated Press estimates that a pandemic could kill up to 207,000 Americans. That's nearly six times more lives than regular flu claims on average every year.


News of this threat comes on the heels of a government warnng that nearly half of this season?s flu vaccine supply will arrive about a month late because some doses may be contaminated.

However, federal officials say there is little to worry about with the delay and that everyone who needs the vaccine will eventually be able to get it. More than 100,000 flu vaccine doses are expected to be available in the U.S. this year ? more than ever before.

Advice for every caregiver: protect yourself and those you love, especially the elderly and very young, as early as possible this fall.

In the News: Police Unknowingly Shoot Alzheimer's Patient
Police in Indiana say they didn?t realize an older man they subdued by shooting him with a stun gun was wandering in a busy South Bend street only because he had Alzheimer?s disease.

The incident early in August led the son of the 65-year-old man, a resident of Zambia visiting family in Indiana, to criticize the police for overreacting.

According to the South Bend Tribune, a police officer shot Thompson Thewo with the Taser stun gun when he refused to come out of the street. Matthew Thewo says his father suffered deep facial cuts, a broken arm and dislocated elbow as a result.

In the News: Who?s in Charge Here!
It?s anyone?s guess who was more surprised when police in suburban Washington were called to an assisted living facility in the wee hours recently and found the entire home staff asleep.

A frustrated resident who needed help with a catheter phoned police from the Sunrise Senior Living facility in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Washington Post said police responded but couldn?t gain entry. They rang the after-hours call button, phoned the front desk and even sounded police car sirens to no avail. After finding an unlocked side door, officers found the staff asleep and residents in need of help, including a hospice patient who had fallen out of bed and was calling for help.

?The city is outraged,? said town spokeswoman Barbara Gordon. An investigation is underway.

In the News: Brits OK Cell Phones in Hospitals
Are designated cell-phoning areas on the way to U.S. hospitals?

The ever-present cell phone has long been banned from hospitals, but Britain has opened up ?reasonable? use of the phones in certain ?safe? areas. The aim is to improve communication and patient care, according to the nation?s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Mobile phone bans were enacted because they can interfere with critical medical equipment, especially patient monitoring devices, and therefore endanger patients.

The British agency said improvements in mobile technology have lessened that risk while offering quick, efficient care and communication among hospital staff.

?Overly restrictive policies can act as obstacles to this beneficial technology, so this updated advice will help ensure that hospitals reap the benefits of mobile technology without compromising patient safety,? the agency said.

There?s no word yet on U.S. hospital reaction to this change.

In the News: Osteoporosis Surges 700%
The number of new cases of osteoporosis has surged 700% in the past decade, a trend researchers find coinciding with new drugs used to treat the bone-thinning disease.

Stanford University researchers, reporting in The Archives of Internal Medicine, said the disease, which typically strikes older women, has ballooned to 3.6 million cases from 500,000 in 1994.

This trend coincides with a decrease in the prescription of calcium to treat osteoporosis and the rise newly-developed drugs to tackle the brittle-bone condition.

?Physicians and patients may be so enamored of the new drugs that they are neglecting this important component of osteoporosis treatment,? said Dr. Randall Stafford, referring to the value of calcium. Stafford and his fellow Stanford researchers recommend maintaining calcium treatment at the same time as taking new drugs.

In the News: Aspirin Not for Everyone
That low-dosage aspirin you or your loved one takes to ward off heart attacks and strokes may not do the trick. What?s the problem? It may be you.

More than 20 million Americans take aspirin regularly to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. But new evidence suggests that for many of them, the pills do little if any good. According to the New York Times, researchers have found that anywhere from 5% to more than 40% of aspirin users are "non-responsive" or "resistant" to the medicine. As a result, aspirin does not help prevent their blood from clotting, as it is intended.

Many doctors ? ?a vast majority,? according to the Times ? never test patients for aspirin resistance before or after prescribing a daily ?baby? aspirin (81 mg) as prevention.

Scientists are not surprised that aspirin does not work for everyone -- virtually no drug does. Still, the emerging awareness of aspirin resistance suggests that 107 years after aspirin was developed, mysteries remain about the pill that millions of people pop without a second thought.

"It's the most common cardiovascular drug in the world," Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, director of the interventional cardiology fellowship program at the Cleveland Clinic, told the Times, "and we still don't know everything about aspirin that we probably ought to."

The bottom line: Have your doctor check your responsiveness to aspirin therapy before relying on it to help ward off a heart attack or stroke. There are tests to help him make this determination.

In the News: You?re Sick, We?re Quick . . .And Don?t Forget Eggs, Milk
Coming soon to a supermarket or discount store near you ? quick, inexpensive minor medical care. At least that?s what a number of medical clinics expect to see happen.

Clinics with names like MinuteClinic, FastCare and Quick Care are popping up in Midwest grocery and discount stores as a convenient way for consumers to receive quick, minor health treatment while shopping. A few are even covered by insurance plans.

According to the New York Times, MinuteClinics are now in 10 Target and Cub Foods stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Others exist and more are on their way in other cities.

In-store clinics can diagnose and treat about a dozen common ailments ? from strep throat to sinus and ear infections and seasonal allergies -- in about 15 minutes. They also give vaccinations and screen for cholesterol and blood pressure problems. If they?re busy when you arrive, you can even pick up a beeper and shop while waiting to be beeped so a nurse practitioner can see you. Doctors are on call by phone.

Will the ?You?re sick, we?re quick? clinics catch on at a store near you? Linda Hall Whitman, who runs MinuteClinic, thinks so. ?It?s all about saving people time,? she told the Times.

In the News: Tracking Alzheimer?s By Cell Phone
Government officials on the Spanish-controlled Balearic Isles are providing cell phones with satellite tracking capabilities to about 3,000 island residents with dementia or Alzheimer?s disease as a means of tracking them if they wander or get lost.

According to IBL News, the mobile phones are linked with global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking, which is a common cellular technology in Europe. Alzheimer?s patients in the first or second stage can push a button on the phone

In the News: Starbucks in Hospitals? Heresy!
Tired of that old ?cup of Joe? served up in hospitals while visiting your loved one?

There?s a novel idea moving forward in Canada, where the Royal University Hospital is Saskatoon will soon be outfitted with its own Starbucks coffee shop.

The Saskatoon Health Region says it is buying the Starbucks franchise as a revenue source to boost funding for patient care.

"The business case is strong for a very healthy return, which is making it worth our while," Sandra Blevins, vice president of the health agency told The Associated Press. "It's a brand that people are receptive to and one that's having success other places."

Blevins says the agency will pay about $35,000 (Canadian) for an operating license from Starbucks and expects an annual profit of about $100,000 from the 5,000 daily hospital visitors once it opens in September. The profit, minus 7% royalties to Starbucks, will be used for patient care, she said.

In the News: "Speed Doctoring"
Good communication is essential in all successful relationships ? and that includes doctor-patient.

However, a recent report in The New York Times indicates doctors are quick to interrupt and don?t always listen after asking the patient, ?What brings you here today??

Twenty years ago, researchers found that doctors would interrupt a patient 18 seconds after asking. But things have improved (sort of): by 1999, the first interruption came after 23 seconds.

?When communication doesn?t work and patients have good outcomes, it?s by chance,? Dr. Sherrie H. Kaplan, of the University of California, Irvine, a leading researcher on the topic, told the Times.

The lesson for caregivers: ask, ask, ask on behalf of your elderly while in front of their doctor. The reason: only 15% of patients understand what their doctors tell them and 50% leave doctors? offices unsure of how they?re supposed to care for themselves.

In the News: Coffee as Antidote?
A long-standing dietary ?bad guy? and caregiver staple is stepping into the limelight: coffee is receiving a makeover as a possible source for protecting against diabetes, gallstones and even Parkinson?s disease.

?We?re starting to see evidence of some intriguing benefits associated with coffee,? says Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Alan Leviton. Noting coffee?s negative reputation in recent decades, he said few of the early worries were born out by research.

Behind coffee?s improved reputation:

Three studies have shown that people who drank several cups of coffee daily were half as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Coffee drinkers are less likely to develop gallstones, according to researchers who found the risk falling 13% with one cup daily to 33% when drinking four or more cups.
As for Parkinson?s, two long-term studies found subjects had a lowered risk of developing the disease if they drank coffee, and the odds were significantly reduced if they were heavy coffee drinkers. One catch: only caffeinated coffee showed a benefit.

In the News: Forgetful? Could Be Alzheimer?s Signal
If your mind is sharp, but you or your loved one is becoming more forgetful, the cause could be a mild cognitive impairment ? a type of memory loss where the ability to remember recent information falls off.

The Mayo Clinic, in its newsletter, says this disorder could be a ?strong early predictor? of Alzheimer?s disease. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says research indicates that 80% of those with mild cognitive impairment will develop Alzheimer?s within 10 years.

The troubling signs include forgetting appointments or recent conversations, and having trouble remembering important dates. While there is no specific treatment for mild cognitive impairment, you should see your doctor and discuss these symptoms. He may want to track your progress on a regular basis.

In the News: Senior-Friendly Supermarkets
If senior-friendly supermarkets are popping up in Europe, can we be far behind?

According to a British website, http://just-food.com, the Austrian chain Adeg has opened four ?Aktiv Markt 50 Plus? supermarkets in Austria with designs intended to cater to an aging society.

Among the features: reading glasses available at the door, shelf labels in large print, in-store rest areas and magnifying glasses at the meat and deli counters.

Adeg, with 700 supermarkets in Austria, plans to convert 10 more to the 50 Plus format this year.

In the News: Doctors' Neckties Breed Germs
Does your doctor wear a necktie? This may seem like an odd question, but researchers have found that neckties worn by doctors are terrific breeding grounds for bacteria.

According to a study presented in May at the American Society for Microbiology conference, neckties worn by doctors were eight times more likely to carry bacteria, and therefore spread infections, than ties worn by hospital workers not in patient contact.

Why? Researchers found the neckties often came in contact with patients and their bedding. Doctors would even wash their hands and then adjust their tie, contaminating their hands again, they said.

One solution posed by the study: doctors can switch to bow ties -- or no ties.

In the News: Talking With Alzheimer?s Patients
Communication is, as they say, a two-way street. And when it comes to communication with Alzheimer?s patients, both of you may have a difficult time understanding the other. The Alzheimer?s patient can have trouble processing what you say, and you may not follow what they say because they mix words or repeat words or phrases.

The Mayo Clinic offers these tips to improve communication:

  • Show interest by maintaining eye contact and staying close to your loved one.
  • Avoid distractions and noise that can interrupt concentration.
  • Talk in short sentences with simple words.
  • Don?t interrupt or hurry an Alzheimer?s response, even though it may take minutes for them to answer.

Finally, realize that the frustration with communication works both ways and is the result of your loved one?s disease, not their attitude. Be patient.

In the News: Dry Eye Is Irritating, Treatable
The incidence of dry eye syndrome is especially high among the elderly and can be the source of great discomfort if not treated effectively, according to a study published in the March edition of Archives of Ophthalmology.

Left untreated, the irritating condition can adversely affect an elderly person?s habits, including diet and medication use, researchers at the University of Wisconsin Medical School said. Dry eye syndrome can be associated with rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and other autoimmune diseases.

Researchers pointed to the effectiveness of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors in avoiding the condition. ?Some drugs, such as diuretics and antihistamines, are associated with increased risk for dry eye, whereas ACE inhibitors are associated with decreased risk,? they wrote.

In the News: Who Will Aid "Elder Orphans?"
Of the elderly in this country in need of help, some 85% are cared for or assisted by relatives. Most of the rest live in nursing homes or other assisted care facilities. But more and more seniors are outliving their family members, warns the Orlando Sentinel in a recent article points out that this growing group may create a shortage of caregivers in Florida and many other states.

"We haven't really thought about older orphans.If your family is gone, what do you do?" Leonard W. Poon, a University of Georgia gerontologist asks in the Florida newspaper. Smaller families are one reason the number of older people who are living longer than their relatives is increasing.

In the News: Beating Language Barriers
Discussing Dad's medications can be tough when the professional caregiver you've hired speaks a foreign language. More and more family caregivers and seniors are confronting this language barrier challenge, reports the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

People living geographic regions with great linguistic diversity, such as New York , California and Texas , face the challenge most often. Of the 7,000 long-term caregivers who belong to the Service Employees International Union in Florida alone, nearly half are Haitians or West Indians, followed by about 25% Hispanics, according to the Florida newspaper. And linguistic differences between professional caregivers and the people they work for are expected to increase as retiring baby boomers increase the number of healthcare workers needed in this country. Already there's a steady stream of para-professionals arriving from the Philippines and the Caribbean .

The solution? Offer to subsidize a caregiver's English classes; try the many Internet based translation programs that will turn English into Tagalog, Spanish or Creole in less than a minute, or try picking up key healthcare terms in the caregiver's native language.

In the News: Onions, Anyone?
Onions have shown some hard-to-explain promise for helping the elderly stave off the brittle-bone disease, osteoporosis.

Swiss scientists, reporting in the journal Nature, say their tests on laboratory rats indicate a diet of red and white onions develop stronger, thicker bones, fortifying against osteoporosis. This is something special diets have not accomplished. "Attempts to prevent osteoporosis through diet have had little success," says Dr. Roman Muhlbauer, one of the University of Berne research team, and "calcium consumed in dairy products has only a small effect on the risk of hip fractures."

Onions have been known to have medicinal benefits in other situations, but the researchers cannot explain the reason for the onion's effectiveness in their tests after just four weeks. All onions contain sulfur (the cause of the tearing when you peel them), which is thought to help prevent blood clotting, and spring onions have high levels of folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, beta carotene and iron.

In the News: Chopsticks and Arthritis
Chopsticks may be hazardous to your health. At least that's according to an article in the Los Angeles Times reporting that the 5,000-year-old mode for eating may contribute to arthritis in fingers.

A study of 2,500 elderly in Beijing who had used chopsticks all their life has linked the mechanical stress of manipulating chopsticks with osteoarthritis of the thumb, index and middle fingers. The condition, also known as degenerative arthritis, is the wearing away of the cartilage that cushions a joint, leaving bone to scrape against bone. In addition to pain and stiffness, it restricts the ability to extend and bend the fingers.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine conducted the research and reported their findings at the American College of Rheumatology Scientific Meeting during October.

In the News: Fitting Fashion for Seniors
Tiny buttons and hidden zippers are frustrating both to caregivers and the elderly, reports the Alameda Times-Star in an article on fashion and clothing convenience for seniors. ?Cut tops don?t fit on postures bent or altered with osteoporosis or multiple sclerosis. And buttoned waistbands can be difficult to put on or take off,? according to the California newspaper.

One caregiver, who searched large department stores for apparel designed for seniors, became so frustrated at their lack of appropriate merchandise, she tracked down Silvert?s Clothing Company, a small Canadian manufacturer specializing in seniors. It sells apparel for people with arthritis, Alzheimer?s disease and other aging conditions.

Contact Silvert?s at 800-387-7088 or www.silverts.com.

In the News: Daily Money Managers for Elderly
For the elderly who require regular help with money matters, volunteers and a new breed of professional ?daily money managers? are emerging, reports The Dallas Morning News. Their responsibilities include balancing checkbooks, depositing Social Security checks, filling out insurance claims and paying bills. Fees range from $25-$65, depending on the elderly?s location, according to the Texas newspaper.

Contact the American Association of Daily Money Managers at 301-593-5462 or www.aadmm.com. For a list of volunteers who provide the service free, caregivers should consult their state?s department of consumer affairs or health and human services.

 

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