Cataract Surgery: Then and Now

Cataracts are a common eye problem, especially in seniors. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, more than 50% of Americans have had at least one cataract by the age of 80. A cataract’s main symptoms include blurry vision, sensitivity to light and poor night vision due to the build up of protein which cloud the lens in the eye.

Today, cataract treatment is relatively simple. According to Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, cataracts treatments began to change significantly in the 1980s, shifting from in-patient to out-patient procedures.

“For the next decade, those of us on the “cutting edge” of cataract surgery in Hollywood were doing cataract surgery by a procedure called Extracapsular Cataract Extraction,” Dr. Alan Mendelsohn explains. This procedure was a step above the old methods, but it still required significant stitching and a long rest period throughout recovery.

“While moving cataract surgery to an out-patient basis was considered revolutionary at the time,” he continues, “an even bigger milestone transpired with the transformation of cataract surgery in the mid to late 1990’s to a highly improved technology called Phacoemulcification (phaco).” Phaco allows for only tiny incisions to be made at the surgery site, eliminating the need for stitches. As a result, recovery is much quicker and the risk of infection lower.

According to Dr. Mendelsohn, technological advances in cataract surgery are rapid. The playing field changed again over the last ten years with the “arrival of the multifocal ReStor IOL. With the ReStor IOL, we can generally correct most patients’ cataracts and enable them to see near, far, and everywhere in between without the aid of glasses or contact lenses.” In fact, Mendelsohn underwent such a surgery himself in 2014, and has been living without glasses since.

“Of course, I practice what I preach and always wear sunglasses with UV400 blocker and polarization outdoors during daylight hours for ocular protection!” he says.

Aging Process: Forum

elderlyIn a couple of weeks’ issues senior citizens often have to encounter will be put on the table at a community forum in Ridgefield.  The aging process brings with it – as many of us know – a whole slew of new challenges, but getting the know-how ahead of time can facilitate this process.  Families of the elderly are encouraged to participate in ‘The Next Step…Senior Solutions’ as well.

At the event – held at the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association (RVNA) Center on Governor Street – senior services providers will be accessible and a Q&A session from the audience will take place.  RVNA Director of Community Health and wellness, Barbara Newland explained the reason for the event which is to: ‘take an in-depth look at the decisions seniors face and the choices available to help them maintain their highest level of independence in our community.”

Then there are the efforts to help the elderly live in their homes as long as possible, maintain as independent a lifestyle as possible.  There are many technological advances going on in this area (most notably vis-à-vis at-home monitoring), but in addition there is Bardstown at Home – a local non-profit which trains individuals on giving home care for elderly.  According to its founder, Suzanne Reasbeck, since people “fight to keep [their] independence as long as [they] can [it makes sense that] the movement is toward home care. If we would spend time learning more about how to do some of the basic care tasks that people need.”

The non-profit – which has been in operation for close to 7 years now – offers help with everyday tasks like transportation to appointments, grocery shopping and wellness checks, trying to meet the basic needs of the elderly demographic which is almost-independent. The organization has developed a ‘Plan of Care’ which looks into the person from a holistic point of view, covering the following areas: “diagnoses, medications, limitations, needed equipment, dietary needs, developing detailed care instructions and knowing available services or assistance.” That data is then recorded and made accessible to those assisting the elderly.

There are many ways to tackle the issue of aging.  The first is knowledge and recognition; once that is accomplished it facilitates the rest.

Whitehorse Health Meet

meetingLast week Premiers from 13 Canadian provinces and territories met up to discuss a whole range of socio-economic topics, but one that was glaringly amiss was the issue that keeps causing problems: a healthcare system incapable of providing adequate care on a viable budget.

Ultimately the simple fact is, the nation is aging.  As such, health care now takes up 50% of provincial revenues.  According to Statistics Canada, there are more Canadians 65+ than children under 15.  Indeed, there is  more than 16 percent in that age group which by 2051 will increase to one in four.

What this means is that the hospitals are too crowded because there are just not enough senior facilities or services for the elderly.  Because of this, people who need to be in the hospitals for surgery and stuff are waiting longer than should be the case.  In other words, alternatives need to be found for aging Canadians that a) are more appropriate for their needs and b) don’t waste the valuable resources being used in hospitals for patients who actually need them.

Thankfully though, things are changing.  In the news is the story of the near-completion of the Killarney Seniors Centre, and at the same time, Vancouver has plans for a second such facility.  According to Raymond Louie (who presented the idea for the first center), it is now up to a vote from the Council and a commitment to the anticipated $9m expenditure required.  It is hoped that both the federal and provincial government will take part in this.

Initiatives Nationwide for Seniors

seniorsDepending on where you are located throughout America, there are various levels of activities, locations and resource centers available for the elderly.  In Bridgewater for example, a new wellness center was opened for seniors.  Set up by the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders, this Main Street location was opened at a ceremony that coincided with Older Americans Month.  According to Patricia Walsh, the Director of the Freeholders, “With its proximity to the Adult Day Center, the opening of this center completes the vision Somerset County has had for a senior campus that serves the needs of residents as they go through the various stages of aging.”  Indeed, this was not just a metaphorical but also a literal statement of fact since the construction of the pedestrian bridge forms a link between the Adult Day Center and the Senior Wellness Center.

Bonne Terre seniors can also enjoy some improvement in their facilities.  The current address for the Bonne Terre Nutrition Center and Senior Center is changing due to expansions.  According to Jim Eaton, the institution’s City Administration, it will be set up as follows: a nutrition center that will focus exclusively on diet, supplements and food guides and then a separate senior center to manage all other activities.  Given that there will be apartments as well, this will provide a great opportunity for the city to use different organizations.

So these are two great examples of where life is good for seniors. Now, if only seniors in Brunswick County were privy to this kind of treatment and resources.  Unfortunately though it is not the case. Instead, seniors meet twice a week at the Town Creek Park in a place that is not theirs at all.  They may share a meal together and play games but thereafter they have to fold up all the tables and chairs and store them; in fact everything needs to put away, even the kettle! This is more than just frustrating as one of the seniors, Sandra Tyner explained: “We want something of our own so we don’t have to do all this getting out and putting away. We just need a place that we can call home.”

And it’s not for want of trying.  Indeed, over the last few months a group of dedicated speakers have been active at county commissioner meetings, politely reminding county leaders they want a senior center in the Bolivia/Town Creek area.  Thankfully something finally seems to be moving as a local church recently committed to donating some land for the purpose of building a senior center and now the county is investigating capital funding for a building.

It seems only right that there should be some kind of more equal distribution of resources for the elderly around the country so hopefully within the very near future, the Bolivia/Town Creek area will become more like Somerset County and Bonne Terre.

WAVE Program

seniorsThe Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey has made it possible for local seniors to access wellness assessments via the Wellness Assessment Van for Elders Program. Known as WAVE, this provides yearly wellness visits for those who are 65 years and older.

Medicare already has been covering this since 2011. However, many seniors have not been taking advantage of this. Indeed, reports have found that a mere 10 percent are getting their annual checkups. WAVE administrators are planning to significantly increase this number.

According to Medicine Plus, there are manifold reasons for the elderly to go for annual screenings. First, as a general wellness check. Second, to assess and discuss any risk of future medical issues. Third, to promote and facilitate a healthy lifestyle. Fourth, to update any important vaccinations. And fifth, to familiarize the patient with their medical provider, should an illness or deterioration in a condition, occur. Then of course, there are the more specific screening cases based on lifestyle choices, medical history and cholesterol/blood pressure levels.

Are we ‘Caring’ for Our elderly?

old-manThe forecast for the global care services market by 2022 is $1,012.02 billion. This is due in part to the consistent increase of the elderly population, more susceptible to chronic medical conditions. Most of this money is coming from insurance by Medicaid or Medicare. Figures for 2012 showed that almost 99% home health agencies, 100% hospice, and 96.5% nursing homes were Medicare certified.

With all this expense though, how satisfied are the elderly – and their loved ones who are often left navigating the system for them – with this care? For Joe Cardona who recently helped his elderly father with getting the right health care for dementia, in Florida, the answer would be very much dissatisfied. He felt like the personal touch was completely amiss: “from the moment you visit a facility or communicate with most healthcare providers, it will become abundantly clear that you and your loved one are nothing more than potential clients, not patients.”

From Cardona’s experiences a lot of these issues are due to the immense bureaucracy that he feels is more challenging in Miami and “particularly thorny and difficult to navigate.” He ultimately concludes from his experience with his now late father, “if a society is measured by how it cares for its most vulnerable, then we are an abject failure.”

Perhaps we need to start looking exactly at how “caring” all this money that is being spent, really ultimately is.


2022 Geriatric Care Services Forecasts

seniorsAccording to information released by PR Newswire, it is anticipated that by the year 2022, the amount of money spent through the worldwide geriatric care services market, will reach $1,012.02bn. The volume is so high due to the increasing population of the elderly who are staying alive but are therefore needing medical care due to chronic medical conditions.

In 2014 the value of what was spent on home care services was $255.36bn. it is anticipated that growth will continue at a solid rate. The elderly often prefer home care services as their lives do not have to undergo a complete overhaul. They can also stay with their loved ones.

In North America, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed out that three years ago, there were 58,600 long term care facilities and 4,800 adult day care centers. The main players in this include: Brookdale Senior Living, Extendicare, Inc., Genesis Healthcare Corp., Kindred Healthcare Inc., and the Senior Care Centers of America.

Helping the Elderly Effectively

old-peopleThe NHS – the UK’s public National Health Service – is finding new ways to help make healthcare for the elderly more efficient. As well, devices used for this purpose are much more cost effective. The issue is, to create these devices and put them in homes, requires funding. Apparently there is a gap in the money needed of £485m (almost $750m) that was lacking from the NHS’s first quarter of 2015/6 budget.

Since many seniors fall into the category of individuals with chronic illnesses which necessitate long term medication and frequent medical check ups, what would be more efficient, is home-owned devices to take over this role. Indeed, according to Andrew Carle, executive-in-residence at the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University more than half of all 85+ year olds fall each year.

A lot already has been done in a similar area, whereby the elderly can be monitored or get immediate help. These include: the Medical Guardian Medical Alert Systems, the LifeFone Personal Response Service, the Bay Alarm Medical Alert System and more.

One possible solution is being proposed by the Healthcare Informatics, Solutions and Services (HISS) division which seems to “equip patients with the tools and technologies they need to self-manage and monitor their healthcare at home,” as this will come a long way in reducing the amount of visits patients make to hospitals and medical centers and thus decrease the burden on these institutions.

Right now the aim is to find a way to monitor people in their homes not just intensive care units, but with chronic diseases. Some devices for example can track changes in an individual’s gait which could indicate individuals at risk of a fall or a stroke. But again, the funds are lacking.

For now there are monitoring devices for the home but it seems that there is still a long way to go.

Paid Caregiver Program Locator

elderlyThe Paid Caregiver Program Locator – a free web tool that provides the opportunity for families to identify programs which offer monetary assistance to caregivers – has just been released. The American Elder Care Research Organization (AECRO) is behind the development and manufacture of this tool which helps those 34 million Americans, who – without pay – care for their elderly loved ones.

This tool has the potential to offer a lot of respite for the caregivers. It works by the user (the caregiver) answering questions about their particular situation. Thereafter, the Locator will “find” specific programs that can help them and explain how they work, who is eligible and how beneficial they can be.

According to Alex Guerrero, Director of Operations at AECRO, America offers more than 100 programs which can assist in the payment of caregivers for their efforts. “However,” he noted, “finding these programs and understanding their complex eligibility requirements is a major challenge, especially for time-constrained caregivers. Our Program Locator will quickly and easily educate families about the financial options available to compensate them for their caregiving efforts.”

The tremendous bureaucracy is often too overwhelming for those family members who are already feeling the burden of overextending themselves. Hopefully with this tool from AECRO that will soon be a thing of the past.