November 17, 2008
November 9, 2008
October 30, 2008
October 26, 2008
October 12, 2008
The first subset of sites I find to be useful are those that disseminate the basic background and information concerning the health issues that are commonly associated with aging, Alzheimer's disease in particular. WebMD, a popular and user-friendly health information database, has an Alzheimer's Disease Health Center that is well-organized and information-rich on the many facets of the disease. Visitors familiar with the main site can trust the comprehensive disease guide to be accurate and easy to understand. Message boards increase the site's personalization and interactivity. OurAlzheimers.com presents a similar collection of disease facts, treatments, and resources. The reputable site affiliates and featured content from leading health publications bolster the credibility of the site. Health Talk is another news and information database for Alzheimer's patients and their families. The site is easy to navigate and does not overwhelm the visitor with links. A search function allowing visitors to type in their city and state provides a helpful tool for those looking for a specific type of doctor in their area. Health and Age presents an attractive and organized home page offering a variety of Alzheimer's news, articles, and tools. One sticking point is the ambiguity of the graphics along the left side of the site, as it is unclear whether they are links or advertisements. As an international health database, Health Republic offers much of the same information found on the previous sites, as well as a collection of health news that draws from a global rather than national database. Although not all of the stories concern aging health issues, the volume of articles, as well as the pleasing visuals, makes the site a unique informational resource.
The next subset of my preferred sites is made up of nonprofit organizations and lobbying and special interest groups. Probably the most well-known senior interest group, AARP's website (the logo of which is pictured below) is exactly what a visitor would expect: authoritative, organized, and wide-ranging in terms of information. In addition to the usual news and research presented on many sites aimed at seniors, AARP offers fun and entertaining features, such as recipes and travel tips, that contribute to the sense of a well-rounded community. Another prolific organization is the Alzheimer's Association. Their site offers a similar collection of information and community tools, although the lackluster aesthetics leave a little to be desired. AgingCare.com is a comparable forum with a more appealing layout. However, a lack of clear affiliation and identity (be it partisan or nonprofit, et cetera) lends doubt to its authority. The Alliance for Aging Research's page is far less interactive that previous sites, and instead focuses on the concise detailing of recent publications concerning research conducted in the field of aging. Despite its lack of bells and whistles, the site serves its purpose as a compilation of more obscure sources. Likewise, the International Longevity Center's site favors function over form. Unlike other organizations, the focus here is not dementia or Alzheimer's but "normal" aging, setting it apart in a unique and interesting way. In addition to these non-governmental organizations and groups, the federal government offers its own assortment of sites aimed at the aging community, a couple of which are of particular use and interest. Clearly, these sites, although they tend to be a bit on the boring side, carry a huge amount of authority. The first site is the Administration on Aging (AoA), a collection of government-sanctioned resources for the press, professionals, and elders and their families. As part of the larger Medicare site, Ask Medicare is the new government feature aimed directly at caregivers (as well as the topic of my analysis in an earlier post).
The final subset of websites I feel are particularly helpful are blogs, many of which are created and maintained by individuals, professionals and laymen alike. The first several blogs I explore, however, are sponsored by major news outlets. The New York Times' The New Old Age is devoted to exploring not only the effects of aging on seniors, but other adults majorly implicated by the changes (such as the boomer generation) as well. The blog obviously brings a strong authority, and blogger Jane Gross effectively and knowledgeably details a wide range of aging topics. A supplement of links and resources adds to the well-roundedness of the blog. Similarly, the Wall Street Journal lends its weighty reputation to their Health Blog, which emphasizes the business aspect of the health community. The content-rich site adds fresh perspective to the overall implications of what an aging society means for America. The first of the individual blogs, Ageing Research focuses more on the scientific, rather than societal, developments in aging. Posts are well-written and engaging, and the author clearly brings an extensive education and background to the discussion table. Another blog, Ouroboros, also focuses on the biology of aging. Although some of the posts are a little inaccessible in their terminology and technicality, a unique perspective and a clean layout make for a fascinating, if somewhat tangential, read. As part of a much larger network of caregivers' blogs, Minding Our Elders is aimed at the family and friends of aging individuals. Although it features a scattered design and hodgepodge of subject matter, the blog hosts a definitive voice and obvious passion. Another blog centered on caregiving is Aging Parents Insights. Author David Solie addresses a number of significant issues within the realm of aging, and offers visitors to pose questions to him directly through the website. The Health Care Blog (pictured right), vetted by respected news organizations for its insight and information, almost overwhelms with the amount of links and resources it offers, in addition to its diverse reporting on the site itself. Content is topical and sophisticated, with a discriminating use of graphics and advertising that could distract from all the site has to offer. Finally, Senior World Chronicle is the blog answer to Health Republic, in terms of its international accent. While most posts seem to be a republishing of articles from around the world, extensive archives and labels tie a number of topics concerning aging to a centralized site. While not without some drawbacks, each of these sites offer a number of positive aspects and unique perspectives. I encourage you to visit them and explore the many resources and viewpoints that exist within the aging news and research community.
September 28, 2008
September 21, 2008
The Axis of Alzheimer's: Global prevalence is on the rise, while domestic Medicare policy changes fail to ease the financial burden of long-term care
Today, September 21, is World Alzheimer's Day. While enormous strides have been made in the understanding and treating of this harrowing disease, doctors, patients, and caregivers the world over champion for greater awareness and action. They continue to stress the need for increased research and care funding, as the United States and other countries struggle to assist those afflicted, a demographic bound only to increase as the world's population of elderly individuals grows. As the world observes this day of awareness, a reflection on a recent change to Medicare and the diminishing role of health care in the upcoming election indicates a need for increased focus on the financial aspect of long-term care for those suffering from Alzheimer's here in the U.S.
The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's currently affects some five million Americans, and 26 million people worldwide. With the cause uncertain and no known cure (at best, current treatments have proven only to slow the loss of function associated with the disease), Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease of the brain, resulting in the loss of memory and cognition, and ultimately, the loss of bodily functions. Although the prognosis and duration can differ from person to person, Alzheimer's ultimately leads to death.
Despite the fact that Alzheimer's is commonly known as a disease of old age, a mounting number of cases are being diagnosed in patients in their 30s and 40s. That, combined with the growing proportion of Americans living longer makes for an estimate of 16 million that will be afflicted with the disease by the year 2050.
The crisis of how to handle elderly health care is an international one. As Japan struggles to finance health care insurance for their large population of senior citizens, France, Britain, and Germany are experiencing similar demographic shifts skewed toward the older populations that will mirror Japan's in the years to come. The charts on the right depict Japan's population based on age and sex. The one on the far right, projecting Japan's population in 2050, is in the shape of an inverted pyramid, demonstrative of a nation facing an increasing proportion of the elderly relative to younger and middle-aged adults. Here in the U.S., the state of Florida already has an elderly population proportional to Japan's, with Colorado expected to follow in 2020. As expected, greater numbers of aged individuals translate to greater numbers of Alzheimer's patients. Asia hosts half of the world's Alzheimer's cases with 12.6 million suffering from the disease, a number projected to jump to 62.8 million in 2050. Even developing countries, where prevalence rates of Alzheimer's were once incidental due to low life expectancies, are faced with how to deal with the epidemic as newfound prosperity increases longevity.
On Friday, the federal government stated that, for the first time since 2000 and only the sixth time in the history of Medicare, outpatient premiums will not increase in 2009. The premiums staying constant at $96.40 fall under Medicare Part B, which covers doctors' visits and other outpatient services. Although many Medicare recipients may see this as a positive step toward easing the cost of health care on the individual, it is doubtful this plan will assist those suffering from and caring for patients of Alzheimer's. Out-of-pocket nursing home care deductibles, an expense more commonly associated with caring for patients with Alzheimer's, will rise $44 to $1068 in 2009. Additionally, as it stands now, Medicare covers only skilled nursing facility or home health care deemed medically necessary, denying coverage for most long-term care. The pie chart on the left represents the national health expenditures for 2006. Most long-term care needs (those most commonly associated with Alzheimer's and other chronic illnesses) fall under the categories of home health care (3%) and nursing health care (6%). An offshoot of Medicare, Medicaid currently provides long-term coverage for low-income individuals and families, a program currently under reform with hopes of increasing choice in care options available to patients and families, improving the quality of long-term care offered, and reducing costs and supporting government tax law changes to provide for the private funding for long-term care needs.
For the millions afflicted with Alzheimer's here in the U.S., and the millions more in charge of their care, something in the way our government provides health care has to change. As the presidential election approaches amid crises in the stock market and mortgage industry (both of which make affordable health care that much more important as food and gas prices rise, often disproportionately affecting the elderly), health care reform advocates struggle to remain at the forefront of issues. While long-term care, particularly related to caring for those with Alzheimer's, isn't specifically the focus of the health-care debate, increased attention and insistent action from the American people can only stand to benefit the progress being made fighting the disease and caring for those who suffer from it here in the United States.