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Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Recent Survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) Concludes Medicare Often Takes One-Third to One-Half of Your Social Security Benefit

Healthcare costs take a hefty portion of most retirees’ Social Security benefits.

February 25, 2016-- In a survey conducted last year by The Senior Citizens League, nearly one-half of survey participants reported spending from 11 percent to 33 percent of their Social Security benefits on Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

When planning retirement expenses, make sure to budget enough for the growth in healthcare costs over time, says The Senior Citizens League (TSCL).

 “That can be hard to figure, but rapidly rising healthcare costs, declining 
health, and the need for increased medical services and prescription drugs as you age will take a growing portion of Social Security benefits,” says TSCL Chairman Ed. Cates.

According to a recent survey by TSCL, healthcare costs take a hefty portion of most retirees’ Social Security benefits. In a survey conducted last year, nearly one-half of survey participants reported spending from 11 percent to 33 percent of their Social Security benefits on Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs. A quarter of survey participants said they paid from 34 percent to 50 percent of their Social Security benefits on healthcare.

The portion of Medicare recipients who reported spending more than 33 percent of their Social Security benefits on healthcare costs jumped 7 percent between 2014 in 2015. 

Steep cost increases in prescription drugs was frequently cited as a major cause by 61 percent who said their drug co-pay or coinsurance was higher than expected.

TSCL believes that the extreme cost increases could be putting some Medicare beneficiaries at risk, especially in a year like 2016, when retirees received no annual increase in cost-of-living adjustments (COLAS). In 2010, when retirees received no Social Security COLA, about one-third of Medicare households said they postponed filling their prescriptions or took less than the prescribed amount due to higher costs.

“Medicare must be given the authority to negotiate pharmaceutical prices with manufacturers for covered Part D drugs,” says Cates. TSCL recently submitted a statement on prescription drug costs to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, saying “Lifesaving drugs for cancer, heart disease, arthritis, hepatitis and other life-threatening diseases carry such enormous price tags that older Americans worry their life savings will be drained if they are unlucky enough to get sick.

They question why Congress hasn’t taken legislative action to improve the system and protect the American public from price gouging.” TSCL supports the Prescription Drug Affordability Act (S. 2023, H.R. 3513) that would take important steps to reduce drug costs.

Is this situation happening to you? Participate in TSCL’s 2016 Senior Survey at


With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Independence and Mobility Key for Older Drivers Report Finds

 Newswise, February 21, 2016 — The majority of older drivers want to continue driving as long as they are able to safely, according to a report written by a University of Warwick academic.

The report, called Keeping Older Drivers Safe and Mobile, was commissioned by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

More than 2,600 drivers and ex-drivers between the ages of 55 and 101 were surveyed in the report which was written by Dr Carol Hawley from Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick.

Although the report found 84% of driver respondents rated their driving ability as good to excellent and 86% rated their confidence as a driver as good to excellent, there were some factors which would persuade them to give up their car keys.

Dr Hawley said: “According to the survey most current drivers would consider giving up driving if they had a health condition or a health professional advised them to stop driving.

“General practitioners, doctors and opticians/optometrists are the most influential people to give advice on giving up driving.”

Given the reasons why older people value driving, it is no surprise that older people are reluctant to give up their vehicles.

Some 82% said that driving was ‘very or extremely important’ to them, and women were significantly more likely to rate driving as ‘extremely important’ than men.

The top five reasons why older drivers wanted to keep driving were:

Percentage Of Survey
1. Independence
2. Convenience
3. Mobility/getting around
4. Freedom
5. Lack of public transport

Despite their determination to keep driving, the majority were in favour of measures to increase their safety on the roads including retesting and checking of various aspects of drivers’ health and competence to remain behind the wheel.

Almost 60% said drivers should retake the driving test every five years after age 70, 85% said drivers should pass an eyesight test every five years once they have reached 70, and more than half said that drivers aged around 70 should be required to have a medical examination.

Sarah Sillars, chief executive officer of the IAM, said: “A driving licence is a passport to freedom for all ages but particularly so for older drivers. As grandparents it’s about helping their family access jobs, education and childcare as well as keeping themselves independent and mobile. The psychological impact of a giving up a driving licence shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Reaction times and physical mobility are affected by age and all drivers need to make an informed decision about when to give up. We need to make it as easy as possible for mature drivers to make that choice armed with the full facts and all the support they need.

“While some might need to accept the decision they cannot keep driving safely on the road, we believe some are pushed into giving up before they really need to. A professional opinion counts for a lot, and there are many organisations that offer advisory voluntary assessments that will give an older driver the confidence they need to enjoy many more years of happy motoring – including ourselves.”

Sensory Loss Affects 94 Percent of Older Adults

African-Americans multisensory impairment more frequent
Multisensory impairment more frequent among African -Americans

Newswise, February 21, 2016 — The first study to measure the full spectrum of age-related damage to all five senses found that 94 percent of older adults in the United States have at least one sensory deficit, 38 percent have two, and 28 percent have three, four or five.

The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also found that deficits in multiple senses were strongly associated with age, gender and race.

As expected, older participants in the study had more sensory deficits, with large differences in hearing, vision and smell. Men scored worse on hearing, smell and taste, but better than women for corrected vision.

African Americans scored lower on all senses, except hearing. Hispanics had lower scores on vision, touch and smell, but scored higher on taste.

Some of these deficits were mild but many were serious. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those in the study—3,005 people between the ages of 57 and 85 who enrolled in a large, nationally representative sample—suffered from a significant deficit in at least one sense; 22 percent had major deficits in two or more senses.

“We know that sensory impairment is common and is often a harbinger of serious health problems, such as cognitive decline or falls, as well as more subtle ones like burns, caused by loss of touch sensitivity, food poisoning that goes undetected because of loss of smell and taste, and smoke inhalation, from loss of smell,” said study author Jayant Pinto, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago. “Our findings here give us a better appreciation of the prevalence of multi-sensory loss, a first step toward learning more about what causes the senses to decline.”

The most prevalent sensory deficit, affecting 74 percent of participants in the study, was a decrease in the sense of taste. Twenty-six percent of the study subjects had a sense of taste rated only as fair, and 48 percent were rated poor.

Decreased sense of touch was also common. Thirty percent of study subjects had a normal sense of touch, but 38 percent were rated as fair and 32 percent as poor.

Age-related sensory loss is a serious problem. An earlier study from Pinto’s team, published in October 2014, found that olfactory dysfunction predicted mortality better than a diagnosis of heart failure or cancer. A similar study, published last September in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, found that hearing impairment may also be associated with an increased risk of death.

In this study, the authors found evidence of a common process underlying impairment of the five senses. They suspect that this underlying factor could involve nerve degeneration, environmental insults or underlying genetic susceptibility that contributes to sensory loss associated with aging.

The sensory impairment study was part of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP), the first in-home study of social relationships and health in older adults. In the first wave of NSHAP, conducted in 2005-06, professional survey teams from the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago used validated tests to measure each subject’s ability to see, feel, smell, taste and hear.

• The vision study allowed participants to wear their glasses or contact lenses and measured their ability to see under typical home lighting conditions. Subjects with vision rated as 20/40 or better were ranked as good. Those between 20/40 and 20/63 were fair; those below 20/63 were considered poor.
• Touch measured subjects’ ability to distinguish between two points on the index finger of their dominant hand. Those who could feel two separate contact points 4 millimeters apart were considered good, 8 mm apart was fair, 12 mm (about half an inch) or more was poor.
• Smell was assessed using a validated taste that presents five different smells, one at a time. Those who correctly identified at least four of the five were rated good. Those who identified two or three were considered fair, and those who identified one or none were rated poor.
• Taste testing relied on four paper strips—sour, bitter, sweet and salty—applied to the tongue. Those who correctly described all four were rated as good. Those who got one or two right were rated fair, and those who got all four wrong were rated as poor.
• Interviewers for the study rated subjects’ ability to hear on a five-point scale based on how they responded during their conversation and categorized then as good, fair or poor. Subjects were allowed to wear their hearing aids if they chose to.

The interviewers also assessed participants’ age, physical and mental health, social and financial resources, education, and alcohol or substance abuse through structured interviews, testing and questionnaires.

Sensory loss related to age is an understudied issue. Shakespeare described it as “second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste.” The gradual decline of input from the senses “constrains how the elderly cope with social, physical and cognitive stresses, Pinto said. “It is a major part of why older people report decreased quality of life.”

“We need to understand the biology behind the links between age and sensory loss and design better ways to prevent its decline,” Pinto said. “People caring for older adults, including family members, caregivers and physicians, should pay close attention to impairments in vision, hearing, and smell.

There are interventions for those senses “that could make a big difference,” he said, for example eyeglasses, hearing aids and smell training. “Even simple things like increasing spices in foods could help those with taste loss or providing tactile clues for people with loss of touch could improve function. This area remains under active investigation.”

The study, “Global Sensory Impairment among Older Adults in the United States,” was funded by the National Institutes of Health—including the National Institute on Aging, the Office of Women’s Health Research, the Office of AIDS Research, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research—the McHugh Otolaryngology Research Fund, the American Geriatrics Society, and the Institute of Translational Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Additional authors were Camil Correia, Kevin Lopez, Kristen Wroblewski, Megan Huisingh-Scheetz, David Kern, Rachel Chen, Philip Schumm, William Dale and Martha McClintock.

‘Invisible Work’ Takes Toll on Unpaid Caregivers

Family and friends who help with health care more likely to experience emotional, physical and financial difficulties

Invisible work takes toll on unpaid family caregiversNewswise, February 21, 2016 — Unpaid family and friends who assist older people with disabilities by coordinating doctor appointments and managing medications are significantly more likely to experience emotional, physical and financial difficulties than caregivers who don’t provide this type of support, new research finds.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers, reporting in the Feb. 15 JAMA Internal Medicine, say such caregivers are also three times more likely to be less productive at work due to distraction and/or fatigue, a phenomenon called “presenteeism,” as well as outright absenteeism. Researchers say this shows that there is a significant – and often unrecognized – cost borne by employers.

“A lot of work goes into managing the care of people with complex health needs, and this work is borne not only by health care providers and patients, but also by their families,” says Jennifer L. Wolff, PhD, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School.

 “Little attention has been directed at understanding the extent of or consequences for this unpaid and invisible workforce that is vital to the care of the chronically ill. Our study aims to do that.”

The study finds that in the United States, an estimated 14.7 million unpaid caregivers, most of them family, assist 7.7 million older adults. Of those, 6.5 million caregivers provide substantial help with health care, 4.4 million provide some help and 3.8 million provide no help.

For their study, the researchers examined data from 1,739 family and unpaid caregivers of 1,171 older adults included in the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study.

They found that caregivers who provide substantial help with health care activities were significantly more likely to live with the older adult they care for than those who did not help with these activities (61.1 percent vs. 37.6 percent), and they were also more likely to report caregiving-related emotional difficulty (34.3 percent vs. 14.6 percent), physical difficulty (21.6 percent vs. 5.7 percent) and financial difficulty (23 percent vs. 6.7 percent).

Caregivers who provide substantial help with health care needs also provided care of greater intensity (28.1 hours per week vs. 8.3 hours per week).

Wolff says the caregiver is often the linchpin in the health care of older adults, making sure that treatment plans developed by physicians are being carried out at home, but their role often goes unrecognized in the fragmented American health care system.

She says that caregivers need to be included and supported as members of the health care team and given greater access to information about patients’ health and treatments, which is often a challenge because of federal patient privacy laws.

Wolff says health care providers can do a better job of involving caregivers when they accompany patients to medical appointments, recognizing their key roles and more purposefully engaging them.

“The more we know about this invisible workforce, the better we will be able to develop strategies that include unpaid caregivers as part of patients’ health care team,” she says.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (K01MH082885), the National Institute on Aging (U01AG032947) and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (12-233-SOL-00434).

“A National Profile of Family and Unpaid Caregivers Who Assist Older Adults With Health Care Activities” was written by Jennifer L. Wolff, Brenda Spillman, Vicki A. Freedman and Judith D. Kasper.

10 Common Elderly Health Issues

10 common Elderly health issues described
 Newswise, February 21, 2016 — Getting older can seem daunting­—greying hair, wrinkles, forgetting where you parked the car. All jokes aside, aging can bring about unique health issues
With seniors accounting for 12 percent of the world’s population­–and rapidly increasing to over 22 percent by 2050–it’s important to understand the challenges faced by people as they age, and recognize that there are preventive measures that can place yourself (or a loved one) on a path to healthy aging.

1. Chronic health conditions
According to the National Council on Aging, about 92 percent of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77 percent have at least two. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are among the most common and costly chronic health conditions causing two-thirds of deaths each year. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends meeting with a physician for an annual checkup, maintaining a healthy diet and keeping an exercise routine to help manage or prevent chronic diseases. Obesity is a growing problem among older adults and engaging in these lifestyle behaviors can help reduce obesity and associated chronic conditions.

2. Cognitive health
Cognitive health is focused on a person’s ability to think, learn and remember. The most common cognitive health issue facing the elderly is dementia, the loss of those cognitive functions. Approximately 47.5 million people worldwide have dementia—a number that is predicted to nearly triple in size by 2050. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease with as many as five million people over the age of 65 suffering from the disease in the United States. According to the National Institute on Aging, other chronic health conditions and diseases increase the risk of developing dementia, such as substance abuse, diabetes, hypertension, depression, HIV and smoking. While there are no cures for dementia, physicians can prescribe a treatment plan and medications to manage the disease.

3. Mental health
According to the World Health Organization, over 15 percent of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder. A common mental disorder among seniors is depression, occurring in seven percent of the elderly population. Unfortunately, this mental disorder is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Older adults account for over 18 percent of suicides deaths in the United States. Because depression can be a side effect of chronic health conditions, managing those conditions help. Additionally, promoting a lifestyle of healthy living such as betterment of living conditions and social support from family, friends or support groups can help treat depression.

4. Physical injury

Every 15 seconds, an older adult is admitted to the emergency room for a fall. A senior dies from falling every 29 minutes, making it the leading cause of injury among the elderly. Because aging causes bones to shrink and muscle to lose strength and flexibility, seniors are more susceptible to losing their balance, bruising and fracturing a bone. Two diseases that contribute to frailty are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. However, falls are not inevitable. In many cases, they can be prevented through education, increased physical activity and practical modifications within the home.

5. HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 21 percent of AIDS cases occurred in seniors over the age of 50 in the United States, and 37 percent of deaths that same year were people over the age of 55. While sexual needs and ability may change as people age, sexual desire doesn’t disappear completely. Seniors are unlikely to use condoms, which, when combined with a weakened immune system, makes the elderly more susceptible to contracting HIV. Late diagnosis of HIV is common among older adults because symptoms of HIV are very similar to those of normal aging, making it more difficult to treat and prevent damage to the immune system.

6. Malnutrition

Malnutrition in older adults over the age of 65 is often underdiagnosed and can lead to other elderly health issues, such as a weakened immune system and muscle weakness. The causes of malnutrition can stem from other health problems (seniors suffering from dementia may forget to eat), depression, alcoholism, dietary restrictions, reduced social contact and limited income. Committing to small changes in diet, such as increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreasing consumption of saturated fat and salt, can help nutrition issues in the elderly. There are food services available to older adults who cannot afford food or have difficulty preparing meals.

7. Sensory impairments

Sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing, are extremely common for older Americans over the age of 70. According to the CDC, one out of six older adults has a visual impairment and one out of four has a hearing impairment. Luckily, both of these issues are easily treatable by aids such as glasses or hearing aids. New technologies are enhancing assessment of hearing loss and wearability of hearing aids.

8. Oral health

Often overlooked, oral health is one of the most important issues for the elderly. The CDC’s Division of Oral Health found that about 25 percent of adults over the age of 65 no longer have their natural teeth. Problems such as cavities and tooth decay can lead to difficulty maintaining a healthy diet, low self-esteem, and other health conditions. Oral health issues associated with older adults are dry mouth, gum disease and mouth cancer. These conditions could be managed or prevented by making regular dental check-ups. Dental care, however, can be difficult for seniors to access due to loss of dental insurance after retirement or economical disadvantages.

9. Substance abuse

Substance abuse, typically alcohol or drug-related, is more prevalent among seniors than realized. According to the National Council on Aging, the number of older adults with substance abuse problems is expected to double to five million by 2020. Because many don’t associate substance abuse with the elderly, it’s often overlooked and missed in medical check-ups. Additionally, older adults are often prescribed multiple prescriptions to be used long-term. The National Institute on Drugs finds that substance abuse typically results from someone suffering mental deficits or taking another patient’s medication due to their inability to pay for their own.

10. Bladder control and constipation

Incontinence and constipation are both common with aging, and can impact older adults quality of life. In addition to age-related changes, these may be a side effect of previous issues mentioned above, such as not eating a well-balanced diet and suffering from chronic health conditions. The Mayo Clinic suggests maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to avoid these elderly health issues. There are often effective medical treatments, and older adults should not be embarrassed to discuss with their physicians.

Prescription Sleep Medicine Linked to Motor Vehicle Collisions in Older Adults and Women

Newswise, February 21, 2016--A recent study by University of Alabama at Birmingham student assistant John Booth, III, and UAB Department of Epidemiology Professor and Vice Chair Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., published in Sleep Medicine linked the use of prescription sleep medicines containing zolpidem among aged drivers and the incidence of motor vehicle collisions.

“Due to the side effects of such drugs — including drowsiness upon waking and impaired coordination, current zolpidem users age 80 and older, as well as those who are female, experienced higher rates of MVCs than nonusers,” said Booth, a Ph.D. candidate in UAB’s Department of Epidemiology.

“We recommend that health care practitioners consider proposing behavioral treatment before prescribing zolpidem to restore sleep in women and patients over age 80 to reduce the risk of MVCs associated with this prescription drug.”

In the overall sample, the unadjusted 5-year motor vehicle collision rate was 46 percent higher for current zolpidem users versus nonusers.

More specifically, the unadjusted 5-year motor vehicle collision rate was 65 percent higher for females and 23 percent higher in males who used zolpidem. For those 80 years of age and older, the unadjusted 5-year motor vehicle collision rate was 124 percent higher for zolpidem users compared with nonusers.

According to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, possible treatment alternatives to sleep medications include relaxation techniques, melatonin supplements, mind and body approaches such as meditation, as well as stimulus control such as consistent sleep schedules, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
A total of 2,000 north central Alabama zolpidem users, age 70 and up, who had driven within the previous three months and held a valid driver’s license were studied.

The researchers evaluated each participant’s five-year MVC history, obtained from the Alabama Department of Public Safety, and then estimated at-fault MVC rate ratios by comparing zolpidem users’ and nonusers’ data in age- and sex-defined subgroups.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Feeling Older Increases Risk of Hospitalization, Study Says

Disease, depression could help explain association

Feeling older increases risk of hospitalization
Newswise,  February 13, 2016-- People who feel older than their peers are more likely to be hospitalized as they age, regardless of their actual age or other demographic factors, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“How old you feel matters. Previous research has shown it can affect your well-being and other health-related factors and, now we know it can predict your likelihood of ending up in the hospital,” said the study’s lead author, Yannick Stephan, PhD, of the University of Montpellier in France.

The research, which comprised more than 10,000 adults across the U.S., was published in the journal Health Psychology.

Despite previous studies showing an association between health-related issues and subjective age, this is the first study to test whether feeling older is linked to a higher risk of hospitalization, according to the article.

Stephan and co-authors Angelina R. Sutin, PhD, and Antonio Terracciano, PhD, of Florida State University, analyzed data from three longitudinal studies conducted from 1995 to 2013 with participants ranging in age from 24 to 102.

They found that those who reported feeling older than their actual age had a 10 to 25 percent increased likelihood of being hospitalized over the next two to 10 years when controlling for age, gender, race and education. The findings replicated across the three samples.

Further analysis showed that having more depressive symptoms and poorer health helped explain the link between feeling older and being hospitalized.

“Feeling older is associated with poorer physical and mental health, but also with physiological impairments that may result in illness and health service use over time,” said Sutin.

Participants were drawn from the Midlife in the United States Survey, the Health and Retirement Study and the National Health and Aging Trends Study.

In each sample, the participant’s subjective age was assessed by asking each participant how old he or she felt at the beginning of the study. Researchers also asked them to provide information about previously diagnosed health conditions (i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart condition, stroke, osteoporosis or arthritis).

Participants also answered a questionnaire designed to assess symptoms of depression. At the beginning and at various follow-up periods, subjects reported if they had been hospitalized for any reason, either over the last year in two samples or over the last two years for the other.

“In addition, individuals with an older subjective age are more likely to be sedentary and to experience faster cognitive decline, all of which may precipitate a hospital stay” said Terracciano. 

“Taken as a whole, this study suggests that subjective age, along with demographic, cognitive, behavioral and health-related factors, could be a valuable tool to help identify individuals at risk of future hospitalization,” said Stephan.

“People who feel older may benefit from standard health treatments -- for example through physical activity and exercise programs, which may reduce their risk of depression and chronic disease, and ultimately their hospitalization risk.”
Article: “Feeling Older and Risk of Hospitalization: Evidence From Three Longitudinal Cohorts,” by Yannick Stephan, PhD, University of Montpellier; and Angelina R. Sutin, PhD, and Antonio Terracciano, PhD, Florida State University, Health Psychology, published online Feb. 11, 2016.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at

Improving Quality of Life for the Seriously Ill

Need for increased quality of life for serious ill
Newswise, February 13, 2016— Being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness is distressing enough but a dearth of cohesive services often compounds the difficulty, according to an NAU researcher.

Mary Anne Hale Reynolds, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, focuses on adults, ages 20-59, and the physical, psychosocial, emotional and spiritual impacts following a life-threatening disease diagnosis.

Reynolds’ area of expertise is palliative care, which she described as an array of services geared toward people with serious illnesses.

“The interesting thing about palliative care teams is they are almost always based in acute-care settings in hospitals,” Reynolds said. “But for people who are discharged home, then community resources become very important.”

Most people Reynolds has surveyed are unable to accurately describe palliative care, which she describes as similar to hospice services but provided on an outpatient basis through community partners over a longer period of time.

Palliative care includes spiritual counseling, pharmaceutical assistance and health care services. Unlike patients in hospitals, hospice and assisted-living facilities, many people in Reynolds’ research live at home, continue to work and often care for family members despite a potentially life-threatening diagnosis.

As the health care system in the United States continues to evolve, Reynolds has witnessed a move toward more palliative care, yet research on the topic is sparse.

With more people living longer with life-threatening illnesses, there is an imperative to improve the quality of their lives, Reynolds said, which could be accomplished through a robust model of palliative care.

Services could include managing symptoms and pain, transportation to and from treatments, navigating insurance and referring people to a lawyer if advanced directives are needed.

In a recent northern Arizona study, Reynolds learned about inadequacies of services for people with cancer. She discovered recurring themes among the afflicted, including difficulty maintaining employment, financial burdens and the challenge of commuting to Flagstaff for health care.

Most of the people in Reynolds’ study, which was funded by the American Nurses Association and Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, were slow in being correctly diagnosed, postponing their cancer treatments.

After a diagnosis, palliative care services could have improved their lives, she said.
"Palliative care models are all about improving people's quality of life, not the quantity," said Reynolds, noting that in many cases patients receiving palliative care early do actually live a couple of months longer than expected.

In addition to enhancing the quality of life following a diagnosis, Reynolds said, palliative care research shows an economic benefit from fewer hospital readmissions.

Reynolds wants to expand her recent research to include cardiac patients and people with other types of life-limiting illnesses. Educating primary care providers, including those in rural communities, would be a big step toward improving the quality of life for patients.

"With palliative care, it is about identifying services we have an what we need," Reynolds said. Nurses, including Reynolds' students, will play significant roles on future interdisciplinary teams if the healthcare system moves to a more encompassing palliative care model.

Reynolds received word this week that two of her grant applications were accepted and funding will be awarded for additional palliative care research.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Past Experiences Affect Recognition, Memory

Newswise, February 10, 2016 — New research from the University of Guelph on the brain and memory could help in developing therapies for people with schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study by psychology professor Boyer Winters and his research team was published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Their work sheds new light on the internal workings of the brain, specifically regions involved in recognizing and remembering objects.

“Our study suggests that past experience with an object alters the brain circuitry responsible for object recognition,” said Winters.

“It has significant implications for our understanding of multisensory information processing.”

Multisensory integration is an important part of memory, Winters said. For example, if you hold something while blindfolded, chances are you can recognize it by touch if you have seen it before. But how?

Specialized areas of the brain mediate information for sight and touch, Winters said. Some researchers say those regions “talk” to each other, enabling better recognition of an object.

Others believe that the brain integrates information from the senses and stores it in a separate place entirely, and then taps into that area to aid object recognition.

Winters and his team from U of G’s Collaborative Neuroscience Program set out to test which model is correct using rats.

They let some rats briefly explore an object’s tactile and visual characteristics. 

The next day, the researchers showed the object to the same animals, and compared their responses to rats seeing the object for the first time.

Rats exploring the objects for the first time appeared to use multiple specialized brain regions to recognize the object, while rats with previous exposure tapped into a separate part of their brains to perform the same memory task.

“Knowing what an object looks like enables them to assimilate information in a way that doesn’t happen when there is no pre-exposure,” Winters said.

“Our study suggests there is an assigned region of the brain for memory based on previous experience with objects.”

The more exposure to an object, the more information about it is stored in dedicated parts of the brain, leading to more efficient behavioural responses, Winters said.

The research may help in developing therapies for people with dementia and other brain disorders who cannot recognize highly familiar objects or people, he said.

Study Shows Promising Safety Results for Anti-Aging Drug

First rapamycin metabolic study results in nonhuman primates results in new grant

Newswise, February 10, 2016– The search for the fountain of youth led to a 2009 discovery that a drug called rapamycin was shown to extend the lifespan of mice.

Since that time, studies on the metabolic side effects of rapamycin have made it unclear whether the drug is safe as a long-term treatment. A recent study published in the November issue of the journal Aging showed minimal metabolic side effects after continuous, long-term treatment with encapsulated rapamycin in a marmoset (monkey) model.
The study, completed by researchers with the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) at Texas Biomedical Research Institute, is the first to examine the metabolic consequences of rapamycin dosing in healthy, non-human primates.
In addition to metabolic function, the researchers found that the encapsulated rapamycin was well tolerated by the marmosets.
“This initial study with marmosets as a model for human aging has allowed us to evaluate the efficacy of a new intervention treatment that looked promising in other animal model species for both healthspan and lifespan extension,” said Dr. Corinna Ross, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor Biology, Texas A&M University San Antonio.
“The results are encouraging,” said Dr. Suzette Tardif, Associate Director of SNPRC and co-investigator on the study. “Marmosets also offer a unique non-human primate model that will allow us to further evaluate not just the safety but the effectiveness of treatment with rapamycin.”
Due to results from this study, a grant for $2.7 million was awarded to the Barshop Institute and SNPRC by the National Institute on Aging to fund a new study to determine the effects of rapamycin lifespan and markers of healthy aging for a cohort of marmosets that have already reached middle age.
Dr. Adam Salmon, principal investigator of the new study and Assistant Professor/Research Department of Molecular Medicine at the Barshop Institute, said, “These studies will provide an important step towards translational approaches to delay age-related disease and improve healthy aging in humans by means of pharmaceutical inhibition of mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin).”
The new study begins this month.
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Texas Biomed is one of the world's leading independent biomedical research institutions dedicated to advancing health worldwide through innovative biomedical research. Texas Biomed partners with hundreds of researchers and institutions around the world to develop vaccines and therapeutics against viral pathogens causing AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, hemorrhagic fevers and parasitic diseases responsible for malaria, schistosomiasis and Chagas disease. The Institute also has programs in the genetics of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, psychiatric disorders and other diseases. For more information on Texas Biomed, go to

Friday, February 5, 2016

Money and Influence in 2016 Presidential Campaign Tracked by New Index at Chicago Booth

2016 Presidential election big money donor influence
Newswise, February 5, 2016 — As the 2016 presidential campaign attracts more money and bigger political donations than any campaign in U.S. history, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business has created a financial index to capture the influence that corporations and special interest groups have on politics and the economy.

The George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State at Chicago Booth launched the Campaign Financing Capture Index to measure the concentration of campaign funding in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The index ranks the concentration of funding for each candidate with an eye toward predicting how political donations could influence policy decisions under a new president.

2016 Presidential election candidates influenced by big donorsThe creation of the index comes as the U.S. courts have lifted limits on the size of political donations, and special interest groups, in the form of super PACS, are playing a bigger role in how campaigns are financed.

“The more concentrated the sources of funding to a political campaign, the higher the risk a politician will be influenced by special interests,” said Professor Luigi Zingales, director of the Stigler Center.

“Candidates receiving large donations from few donors may be less willing and able to lead reforms in markets where powerful special interest groups benefit from the status quo.”

The Campaign Financing Capture Index, published quarterly, will track when and how big-money political donations shift during the course of the campaign. Researchers at the Stigler Center expect there to be significant changes in the concentration of donations as the race progresses.

The index measures “concentration” by the number of donors and the amount of each donation. Candidates with highly concentrated funding have the fewest donors giving the most amount of money.

 Candidates with low concentration of funding have the largest number of donors giving the smallest amounts of money. The Stigler Center defines large donations as contribution of $5,000 or more.

“We think that when donations start to exceed $5,000, donors are not just expressing a political preference, they are trying to influence future policies,” said Zingales.

First Round of Results

Republican candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush ranked as the candidate with the highest concentration of big donors at 77 percent of total campaign contributions above $5,000.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida ranked second at 59 percent, closely followed by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas at 58 percent.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton fell in the middle of the pack with 32 percent of political contributions above $5,000, followed by Democratic former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley at 17 percent, Republican Ben Carson at 12 percent, Republican billionaire Donald Trump at 2.9 percent, and Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 0.1 percent.

The candidates ranked in the same order when tracking donations of $100,000 or more. Bush had the highest concentration of $100,000-plus donors at 58 percent, followed by Rubio at 47 percent, Cruz at 45 percent, Clinton at 29 percent, and O’Malley at 4.3 percent. Figures for Carson were inconclusive.

Sanders and Trump are the only candidates to have received no political contributions over $100,000. Sanders’ campaign is dominated by individual donations of $200 or less. Trump is in a category of his own, digging into his own pockets to fund much of his campaign.

The funding results are for the campaigns are through Dec. 31, 2015.

Analysis is based on Federal Election Commission data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group.

The Stigler Center is a nonpartisan, academic research institution that is focused on the creation and dissemination of research on competitive markets, regulatory capture and the ways in which special interest groups distort markets.

The Campaign Financing Capture Index is led by Professor Luigi Zingales, along with the University of Chicago’s Milena Ang and Chicago Booth’s Eran Lewis.

Mature Drivers Favour Checks on Over 70s, New Study Finds

Publisher’s Note:  Although this survey was taken outside the US, we publish it here as the US faces challenges of an Aging Population—including driving and transportation for older persons

Survey from Warwick shows mature Drivers favor tighter rulesNewswise, February 5, 2016 — The majority of older drivers are in favour of tighter rules on checking the health and suitability of over-70s to drive – even if those checks could take them off the road themselves – according to a new report. T

he Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) worked with Dr Carol Hawley at Warwick Medical School, the University of Warwick, to survey more than 2,600 drivers and former drivers on their opinions, habits and motoring history.

The first major survey of its kind for two decades, Keeping Older Drivers Safe and Mobile, found more than half of over 70s demonstrate that they self-regulate to stay safe, by avoiding driving in challenging situations like busy traffic, after dark, in rush hour or bad weather.

While mature drivers travel significantly fewer miles than other age groups, 84% of them rated their driving ability as ‘good to excellent’ and only 6% had ever considered giving up driving.

Despite that a very high proportion of respondents were in favour of measures to increase their safety on the roads. Dr Hawley said: “Almost 60% of those questioned said drivers should retake the driving test every five years after age 70, 85% said drivers should pass an eyesight test every five years once they have reached 70, and more than half said that drivers aged around 70 should be required to have a medical examination.”

Dr Hawley worked with Professor Elizabeth Maylor in the University’s Psychology Department who provided access to the Warwick University research volunteer panel which provided nearly all of the respondents. Of those questioned 94% agreed that GPs should be required to inform patients if their medical condition may affect their fitness to drive and half agreed that a flexible licensing system should be introduced which could restrict types of roads and conditions for some older drivers.

The IAM’s survey found respondents wanted some rules to extend further than older drivers – 84% agreed that all drivers should pass an eyesight test every 10 years after first passing, regardless of their age.

The report also found just how important driving is to this group. Some 82% said that driving was very or extremely important to them, a figure that increases for women. Independence and convenience were cited as the main reasons for wanting to continue driving.

The number of drivers over the age of 70 is set to double over the next 20 years and with more than one million licence holders over the age of 80, there is a pressing need for enlightened policies and practical actions to help them keep safe and competently mobile for as long as possible.

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said: “Driving is about so much more than getting from A to B and nowhere is this more apparent than in this age group. It helps maintain self-esteem and freedom and is essential for combatting social isolation.

“There are certain issues that affect mature drivers more so than other groups however, such as reductions in mobility and a slowdown in reaction times. The great news from this survey is that mature drivers themselves are aware of the risks and support action to review their safety.

“Voluntary self-assessment and better education via GPs are important techniques for helping drivers understand how long they can continue to drive safely for. And for those needing a confidence boost or a little extra reassurance on today’s busy roads, the IAM’s Mature Driver Assessment could be something to think about.”