agebuzz weekly

February 23rd, 2017

Good morning and welcome to agebuzz… Headlining today’s topics:

Now You're Talking: Medicare Payments For End-Of-Life Discussions: Physicians have historically been uncomfortable initiating conversations about end-of-life care with their patients. These kinds of discussions require tact, sensitivity and, of course, time. In 2016 physicians were given the authority to bill Medicare to have end-of-life talks with their patients, thus freeing them to carve out discreet time to talk with patients about their options and choices. The data is now in regarding these newly compensated conversations, and it's quite remarkable: Medicare compensated providers for over 220,000 end-of-life discussions in just the first six months of 2016.  We still have a long way to go to ensure that these conversations become the norm, and if you haven't had a conversation with your doctor, use this as a reminder of how important it is to discuss your end-of-life wishes with your physician and your loved ones. Some in Congress are threatening to take away this compensation as they fear the phantom "death panels" that were previously used to scare patients. But most of us understand the real value of these conversations, and that we need our doctors to talk the talk, so that patients know their end-of-life care options. Find out more about what's going on Here.

Plan Ahead: Surrogate Decision Makers For Those Without Families: Continuing the theme of conversations with physicians about health care decision-making, especially at the end of life: such advance care planning becomes all the more complex and challenging when there's no clear person to step in to be a surrogate decision-maker should something happen to you.  Typically, patients appoint a trusted loved one or friend to be their health care "proxy" or "agent" in case of loss of decision-making capacity.  However, for those of us who are "elder orphans," there's no available family member or loved one to appoint for this serious role. Writing for PBS's Next Avenue, Carol Marak, an elder orphan advocate from Texas, outlines a series of characteristics and qualities you might want to consider when determining who should fill this vital role for you when there's no obvious surrogate. So plan ahead, before a crisis occurs, and Read Here. 

Here's The Skinny: New Studies Support Low Cal Diets For Healthier Aging: There's a clear connection between weight gain and health risks. And the opposite may also be true: two new research studies provide further evidence that reduced calorie consumption may lead to healthier aging and less risk for age-related illnesses.  First, an early stage study out of Brigham Young University recently revealed how calorie reduction may lead to biochemical changes in the cell, leading to youth extending properties in mice. With 35% fewer calories, the mice in this research not only lived longer but lived with more youthful characteristics. In another study, USC Davis School of Gerontology researchers collected data on humans showing that diets which include a 5 day "fasting period" each month (allowing for only 700-1100 calories during these days) can lead to reduced risk for cancer, diabetes and heart disease, in addition to weight loss. While both of these studies need further investigation to confirm their results, this promising data suggest that better health could be within our grasp- assuming we can keep our hands off high calorie foods! So put down those potato chips, and read about these studies Here and Here.

Making Ends Meet: Medicaid & Other Resources For Low Income Medicare Recipients: Most seniors rely on Medicare to pay for their medical care. But for some 10 million low income seniors, help for medical costs also comes from Medicaid. With Medicaid coverage, seniors receive assistance not only with out-of-pocket medical expenses but also with the major costs of long-term nursing home care, which is largely uncovered by Medicare. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a new Issue Brief which describes in detail the population covered by both Medicare and Medicaid, and it underscores why threats to Medicaid funding or suggestions to create Medicaid block grants could have significant negative impact on millions of senior citizens. Low income seniors may also be eligible for other savings programs that are part of Medicare, including the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, which shields low income seniors with very modest Social Security payments from being billed directly by Medicare providers. To better understand the interaction between Medicare and Medicaid coverage, read the Issue Brief Here. To learn more about Medicare savings programs for low income seniors, Click Here.

No Place Like Home: Rethinking Hospital Care For Seniors: No one likes to go to the hospital, but sometimes there's just no choice- or is there? If you ask Dr. Bruce Leff, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins, whatever you can do to keep seniors out of hospitals is a worthwhile effort, even if you need to set up hospital-level care at home.  In fact, since the mid-90's, Johns Hopkins has pioneered a program called Hospital at Home, which strives to provide hospital-level care to seniors in their own homes, saving money and shielding seniors from infection and other serious illnesses they might pick up from being hospitalized. Several major medical centers around the country are piloting this program and the results so far are encouraging. And with technological advances, bringing the hospital home might be as easy as sending out a drone to deliver your medication. Watch Dr. Leff discuss the move to bring senior care home Here, and read more about the Hospital at Home program Here.

Endless Love: One Man's Tribute To His Wife Of 60 Years: Louise and Charles "LaLa" Evans were married for almost 60 years. Living in Mississippi, it's clear from the thousands of photos they took over the years that theirs was a loving and sweet marriage. When Louise passed away, LaLa determined to honor his wife in a way the two had discussed: He created a "museum" on his property which documents the life they lived together, with thousands of pictures and other memorabilia that capture their years of dancing, travel and love. It's an extraordinary tribute by a husband for his wife. For LaLa, it's just "living a beautiful memory." Few of us ever experience this level of love and devotion. So take out your tissues, and Watch This.

THE LAST WORD: “Never allow your short term temperament to affect your long term decisions." Moutasem Algharati