Norwalk Hospital: Great Rating for Geriatric Care

Norwalk Hospital has just been ranked No. 1 in the 2011 Healthcare Consumerism and Hospital Quality in America in the state of Connecticut with which many diseases the elderly more commonly are afflicted.  These include: prostate surgery, strokes, and vascular surgery. 

In the ranking Medicare data was investigated between 2008 to 2010 throughout approximately 5,000 hospitals nationwide.  According to chief executive of professional services at HealthGrades (that released the survey) David Thompson, there is a 54 percent reduced possibility of fatality when being treated at Norwalk compared to the national average which is extremely significant.  Norwalk hospital also received the 2011 "Specialty Excellence Award for Stroke and Prostatectomy Care."

It was the hospital’s CEO and president, Dan DeBarba, who received the award along with VP CMO Dr. Eric M. Mazur and Chief Medical Quality and Information Officer, Dr. Stephen O’Mahony.

AML Treatment and Seniors

There has been research conducted by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to figure out if age is a factor when treating patients with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).  According to the main author of the research, Dr. Heidi D. Klepin, M.S., the study was looking into how to better assess the older generation suffering from this “because, functionally, they encompass a broad age spectrum.”  She added that while we know geriatrics in general don’t benefit from aggressive therapies as do the younger ones, it is not the case for all seniors.  Indeed, there are some elderly who actually could benefit from these treatments so just because they have an old “age,” does not mean they should be automatically lumped into the “old” category when it comes to treatment options.  The question thus being asked, Klepin has said, is, “can we individualize the treatment to each patient and get them through their cancer treatment in better shape?”

The new research thus indicates that there needs to be a greater focus on the specific patient, as a way of “quantify[ing] how functional they are across the board to withstand the aggressive treatment.”  For example, some 85-year-olds are extremely sprightly, whereas other 60-year-olds behave and feel very old.  Therefore, the more functional ones will “pass all these assessments with flying colors [and] should [thus] be treated like a 55-year-old” and given those treatment options.  Part of the study involved analyzing whether a bedside geriatric assessment (GA) can be helpful in evaluating “cognitive function, psychological state, physical function and co-morbid disease to identify those patients most vulnerable to the side effects of AML chemotherapy.”

The study was published in the October edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and marks the first time an evaluation can be made on whether it is feasible to use a GA for those patients with AML as a way of providing more specific and better, personalized treatment.


Elderly Can Take Anesthetics


There has been concern over the years about the increase of delirious side effects from taking anesthetics amongst seniors.  At the 2011 Annual Meeting for the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), in Chicago, this was one of the findings presented.  The study looked at elderly patients who had to get general anesthesia with isoflurane and compared them with those getting Total Intravenous Anesthesia (TIVA) and found that there was only an impact on delirium if the patient anyway had issues beforehand. 

Dr. Terri G. Monk, of Duke University Health System, said it’s only “preoperative cognitive status,” that can predict “postoperative delirium.”  He added that the study should be a good stop in “reassur[ing] elderly patients that the type of general anesthesia does not affect early cognitive outcomes after surgery and that they should not avoid necessary surgery or general anesthesia if it is required.”

Seniors Save Money with Medicare

Now is the time.  For any senior who is supported by Medicare, now is the time to save money as this is the yearly enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug and Advantage managed care plans.  Given that the new healthcare reform law will be changing certain parts of the Medicare marketplace, it seems like in general, this is going to be beneficial for the elderly population.  There have of course been some criticism of the law since it will be decreasing some of the subsidies to Medicare Advantage, looking at the Advantage and prescription drug markets seniors need not worry.

Review Plan Annually

Everyone – no matter what their particular situation – is advised to review their plan on a yearly basis.  But this is especially important for those on Medicare Part D drug plans since there are often very many changes with the price of drugs; or accessing drugs, throughout the years.  As well, one’s own prescriptions often vary during the year so it’s worth looking into this regularly.

But there is no time like the present vis-à-vis starting the process. Experts in the field are encouraging everyone to make their reviews as soon as possible.  Health reform laws are being put into place earlier than expected and thus one should look to enroll ASAP, with enrollment being available from October 15 to December 7.  Look at your options:  traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage, and then make your decision.  Just remember to look out for ultimately what is best for YOUR personal needs.

Aging at Home?

Yes, With New Wireless Monitoring Devices

Now there may be a new way for the elderly to remain at home, but still be cared for by their loved ones and professional caregivers through wireless devices that ensure the elderly individual (at home) is connected to caregivers even though they are not physically together.  This ensures the senior patient remains checked up on and safe 24/7.

So what exactly can these devices achieve that in the past only caregivers have been able to?  Pretty much everything.  There will be glucose monitors; alerts (if the senior has fallen or gone astray, or even just missed a meal); blood pressure cuffs; and more.  According to director of business development and sales for Ideal Life, Steve Wheeler, some of the devices can work with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) too and a disease management system can be plugged into the patient’s home to tell caregivers what they need to know to help them.

Ideal Life’s Stats

Clearly the devices being made by this company are working.  Statistics have shown that by using Ideal Life’s remote monitoring devices, there are now less than half of congestive heart failure readmissions than there were without the devices.  And of course, over time there will be more to come, which will only lead to an higher quality level of living for the elderly which will provide them with additional choice as to where and how they choose to live out their days with dignity.

Day Center Seniors on the Move?

Will the Benderson Center Have to Close?

The Benderson Center, located on 205 S. Salina Street, Syracuse, is in danger of being shut down due to financial budgeting issues. Although the place has served the elderly population for almost four decades, enabling them to come and sit, and chat to others, now it looks like it won’t be able to do this anymore.  The city’s mayor, Stephanie Miner, last month made the announcement that the center would close at the beginning of this month.  By doing so, the city will save a staggering $10,000 in rent, per month.

So the question being asked is, where to next for these seniors?  Well, apparently there is another option but it comes with its problems.  The Salvation Army down the road could suit these elderly individuals just as well, but the organization is claiming it doesn’t have the funds needed either. Further, a lot of people have said that it is problematic for elderly people to make even these small changes.  And indeed some of the elderly have been protesting so much that they have even taken to shaving their heads as a mark of distaste for the new move. 

The counter argument however, is that it’s not like the seniors are in-house.  If they were living there for some years and had to up and leave, then it would be different.  But given that it is just a day center, moving from one place to another in the same vicinity, should not really be such a big deal.  Nonetheless, it appears the seniors do not see it this way and are up in arms about what is going on.

Ultimately though, it seems a community discussion is in order.  At least if there is well thought-out planning ahead of time, then it won’t be such a shock for the seniors.  The ultimate hope is that Syracuse should be a good place for the elderly to age.

Steve Jobs RIP Helped Seniors Too

Co-founder and chairman of Apple. Inc., Steve Jobs, passed away last Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at the tender age of 56, following a difficult battle with pancreatic cancer.  Although Jobs is best known for the iPod, iPad and iPhone, he also made substantial contributions to healthcare and wellness that are not so widely publicized.

For example, the company’s iPhone boasts a variety of apps that are great for seniors and their care workers.  The CaregiversTouch lets people store all their important information on their phone, giving them easy access to it when in hospital or at an appointment.  If the seniors themselves aren’t tech savvy and are unable to use the phone, it is available for their loved ones to access more easily.  In addition, Elder 911 boasts more than 500 pieces of expert advice from experienced geriatric care managers, categorized into 11 eldercare topics that also have solutions to standard caregiving problems.

Then there are the many apps that encourage the development of fitness levels; diets; exercise diaries and more.  Steve Jobs RIP was more than just a technical wiz; he cared about people and their health too.

Lynchburg: New Psychiatric Program for Seniors

Last Friday, a new psychiatric program was opened at the Virginia Baptist Hospital, Lynchburg, for seniors, offering inpatient care for 12 patients over 60-years-old undergoing a crisis.  This is part of a general urge from healthcare workers to improve the care seniors with mental illnesses receive.  It will enable those with issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s to receive specialist care, in a separate unit from the hospital’s other patients.

According to one of the geriatric psychiatrists working on the new project, Dr. Peter Betz, this unit will be providing a way more “homogenous approach,” which is extremely necessary today, given the increase in the geriatric population of Central Virginia by 23 percent over the last decade with an even faster increase with the rate of Alzheimer’s.

<h2>Need for More Psychiatrists</h2>

As well as the fact that the elderly population – and those requiring psychiatric care – is increasing at such great speed, there are only 50 new geriatric psychiatrists trained each year.  Throughout America, there are only 12 to 15 programs that regularly produce Board Certified Geriatric Psychiatrists.  But given how draining mental illness can be on the entire family (both mentally and financially), more help is needed for these patients (which will ultimately indirectly assist the family too).

According to Indiana University School of Medicine’s clinical associate professor of psychiatry and spokesman for the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. John Wernert, what is unique about this new program is the high level of psychiatric care along with safety and family involvement it has.  He added that it is way better for patients experiencing any level of confusion to be kept in a secure environment, not with those patients with different needs.

<h2>Public Education</h2>

What is ultimately also very good about the program – for society at large – is that it will provide mental health integration into society in a way in which both the patient and the healthy individual are not uncomfortable.

Seniors Caregivers Get a Break

Light at the End of the Tunnel for Arizona Caregivers

Caring for seniors around the clock, no matter how close we are to them, can be a huge drain and incredible burden on the caregiver.  Irrespective of the fact that one does not want to admit that it is too tough, the 24/7 of the caring inevitably, after some time, becomes just that.  So what are these people meant to do if they are determined their loved ones – whose health and well-being is failing – will not be put into care?  There may now be a solution in the Tucson, Arizona area.  Through the new care management services, these caregivers will be given the much-needed break they crave, without being forced to say goodbye to their loved ones. 

The truth of the matter is, everyone needs a break.  And most people are able to take it, so long as they have the financial means.  But it’s not all that easy for caregivers as what is foremost on their mind is, how can they possibly leave their loved ones who rely on them, 24/7, for everything?  So they haven’t been doing it and the burden has been becoming increasingly tough to bear.  Now, however, t hanks to the Professional Geriatric Care Managers program, this is about to change.  This will reassure caregivers that their loved ones will be taken care of while they are away.

Taking a Break

And these are not just any caregivers.  These individuals are specifically trained to be able to assist the elderly.  Indeed, the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers “has experts and resources available for guiding the public about addressing the needs of family caregivers and older adults.”  Anyone in the US can go to the website, click on “find a care manager” and locate someone to care for their loved one in their region, while they take that much-needed break.

Once you return, you will be way better-equipped and able to look after your loved one again.