By Cheryl M. Keyser
One of the most devastating diseases, Alzheimer’s is also the most costly according to recent figures from the Alzheimer’s Association. Currently, there are more than 5 million Americans living with the disease with 15 million caregivers providing 18.1 million hours in unpaid care.
It is the most expensive illness in the country at an estimated $236 billion annually. With an aging society, the number of people afflicted, and the increase in caregiving, both formal and informal,the overall cost will only increase. If no prevention, treatment, or cure is found before the year 2050, it is estimated that there will be 16 million individuals with Alzheimer’s. And at roughly three persons to care for each Alzheimer’s patient, that means 48 million caregivers will be needed.
One bright light on the horizon is that Medicare has finally decided to pay for cognitive and functional assessments and care planning for Alzheimer’s patients and those with similar impairments. This is important as many patients also have chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes, and any care plan must take these into account.
“Proper care planning results in fewer hospitalizations, fewer emergency room visits and better management of medication — all of which improves the quality of life for both patients and caregivers, and helps manage overall care costs,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Public Policy Officer.
For more information, visit the website of the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org.
Meals on Wheels to expand
For years, that familiar knock on the door has announced the arrival of a Meals on Wheels volunteer delivering a hot meal to a home-bound individual.It is the largest, and in many cases, the only organization providing food to those unable to shop or cook for themselves.
Now it is exploring an expansion of its role in the community, helping older adults remain in their homes, “while reducing their need for high-cost healthcare services.”
As Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America noted, “funding to meet basic needs of at-risk seniors has declined and the healthcare system is overburdened,” at the same time as the aging population of the United States is growing.
To achieve its goals, Meals on Wheels has entered into a partnership with Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Maryland and Quantified Ventures to work with the Pay for Success program to finance an extension of its services to more than just providing meals.
With the resources from Pay for Success, it will undertake “a rigorous assessment of the impact [of its program] on both health outcomes and healthcare cost savings [which] will be conducted by an independent evaluator.”
Pay for Success, also known as the Social Impact Bond initiative, is a creative way to leverage funding, albeit complicated. According to information on its website, “private investors pay for preventative…social services up front. Should these services deliver their intended results governments then reimburse the investors with a return on their investment…”
For more information, visit the website at www.nonprofitfinancefund.org.
A new report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) indicates that there is a conflict between Census Bureau numbers and other government entities, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in the number of people who participate in an employment-retirement plan. The former found sharp declines in the number of employees participating in pension plans, while the latter reported an increase.
“While the changes appear to have improved the accuracy of data on pension income (which increased under the redesigned Current Population Survey),” EBRI also noted that “they also resulted in historically sharp and significant reductions in the levels of worker participation in employment-based retirement plans.” This is a key financial measure of how future generations will support themselves in retirement.
“Unless modifications are made to the survey, using CPS for estimating the participation in pension and other retirement plans will provide misleading and inaccurate estimates and conclusions,” said Craig Copeland, EBRI researcher and author of the report.
For further information, visit the website at www.ebri.org.
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 11 seconds an older adults goes to an emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes one dies from a fall.
A study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, however,i ndicates it may have found a way to anticipate an individual’s risk of falling.
Its study required older adults, average age 75, to first walk at a normal pace, then stand while listing alternate letters of the alphabet, and then do both at the same time. The study participants did this while using a non-invasive brain-imaging technology with senors measuring changes in oxygen levels in the front part of the brain.
The participants were followed regularly over a four-year period. Of the 166 in the group, 71 fell 116 times and 34 fell more than once, although none of the falls were serious. The study found that with higher levels of brain activity there was an increase in the risk of falls.
“Our findings suggest that changes in brain activity that influence walking may be present long before people exhibit any sign of walking difficulty. Now we need to find the underlying biological mechanisms or diseases that may be altering brain activity and, if possible, correct them to help prevent falls,”said Dr.Joe Verghese, M.B., B.S. study author.
The National Falls Prevention Research Center, made up of more than 70 national organizations, has established a Falls Free Initiative to educate the public on falls prevention and to obtain funding for further research.
For information, visit the website at www.einstein.yu.edu. or for the Falls Free National Action Plan at the National Council on the Aging website, www.ncoa.org.