Archive for November, 2012

Better coverage coming for mental illness

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

By Rap Lewis 

One of the most under-reported benefits of the new Affordable Care Act is also one of the most transformative.

The law’s near-universal coverage will apply not just to medical problems, but to psychiatric disorders as well. The law combines parity of coverage with the individual mandate requiring insurance.

To grasp the importance of this coverage, consider that about half of Americans will experience a major psychiatric or substance disorder during their lives, according to an authoritative 2005 study cited by Dr. Richard A. Freedman in The New York Times.

Until now, Dr. Freedman notes, “people with mental illness and substance disorders have faced stingy annual and lifetime cps on coverage, higher deductibles, or simply no coverage at all.”

There is solid evidence that timely care can positively change the course of psychiatric illness, Dr. Freedman said.

Older people with mental illness will benefit as the new law phases out the “doughnut hole” over the next eight years, making psychiatric medicines much more affordable.

“This law has the potential to change the course of life for psychiatric patients for the better, and in that sense it is both humane and right,” said Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, president of the American Psychiatric Association.

Health care top concern at forum

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

By Mary Anderson and Will Parry

A standing-room crowd of several hundred packed a forum at the Mercer Island Community Center October 1 to discuss Washington State’s readiness –or lack of it — to meet the expanding health and social service needs of its elderly thousands.

Nineteen candidates for the state house and senate were on hand to interact with their constituents.

An informal show of hands in the audience identified health care and funding state services as the top two concerns, followed by the provision of long-term services and supports; protections for vulnerable adults; financial security; housing; and transportation.

These aging and funding issues are certain to be prominent in the 2013 legislative session. The Caring Across Generations campaign, of which PSARA is a part, is sure to play an active role. The campaign is calling for the creation nationally of two million new caregiving jobs – doubling the present workforce – with strengthened wages, hours and safety provisions and with training and certification to ensure skill and lend dignity to the job.

At the Mercer Island forum, Jessie Eller, Aging and Disability Services director; Ingrid McDonald, AARP advocacy director; Jerry Reilly, chair of the Elder Care Alliance; and Corie Borish, caregiver for her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, took part in a panel discussion of the state’s aging readiness.

Borish brought the issue alive, describing the care needs of her husband as his condition deteriorated, requiring four-hour daily care at first, increasing ultimately to a need for 24-hour care.

Two issues indirectly related to the theme of the forum were part of the discussion. Representatives Bob Hasegawa and Gerry Pollet addressed the need for the creation of a state investment trust (state bank) to provide long-term fiscal stability for the state.

Also part of the discussion was the need for special committees on aging in both houses of the legislature. At present, aging issues are parceled out to many committees, preventing a focus on the special needs of the state’s elderly thousands.


The challenge of dementia

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

By Will Parry
A new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) lends fresh urgency to the work of the recently-launched Caring Across Generations coalition.

WHO is the United Nations agency charged with monitoring global health trends. Its new 113-page report, Dementia: A Public Health Priority, declares that throughout the world an estimated 35.6 million people live with dementia today. By 2050, that number is expected to more than triple.
By then, two billion aging people will be at risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“The scope of the looming medical-care disaster is beyond comparison with anything that has been faced during the entire history of humanity,” said Dr. Barry Greenberg, director of strategy for the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance.

Alzheimer’s experts are blunt about the lack of effective treatments for the disease.

“No one understands how it happens. Every day, the minds of millions of high-functioning people slowly slip into another reality, one in which life events, loved one’s faces, children’s names – all the memories that constitute a person’s identity – have disappeared,” Laura Gottesdiener writes in the AfterNet news service.

The disease often lies dormant for decades in a patient’s cerebral spinal fluid before it begins to affect cognitive functioning. Treatments? Dr. Evelyn C. Granieri is director of geriatrics at New York Prsesbyterian Hospital. “There really is nothing,” she says. “You don’t get better, ever.”

This despite the expenditure over decades of tens of billions of research dollars.

The WHO report recommends the development of programs focused on improving early diagnosis, raising public awareness and reducing the stigma associated with the disease, and providing both better care for those with dementia and more support for caregivers.

That’s where Caring Across Generations has a critical role. Every one of the stricken millions is going to need a trained, empathetic caregiver. Caring Across Generations is raising public consciousness about this need, now and in the years ahead.

Caregiving, an exhausting occupation under the best of circumstances, is especially demanding when the one cared for has dementia. As the population ages, millions of people, often family or friends, will be stepping into caregiver roles. They will need and deserve decent wages and conditions, opportunities for respite, and the training and support they need, both for the one cared for, and for their own continued health.

In February, the National Institute of Health approved new funding for Alzheimer’s research. “We can’t wait to act,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

The clock is ticking not just for the individual patient, but for the entire health care system. Concerned scientists are calling for the suspension of the private, profit-based research model in favor of a global, public-private program.

Every senator…

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

… in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval (hospitals) and all across our land – young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or adventure. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.
– Senator George McGovern, 1922-2012