Archive for October, 2011

Scary Statistics

Scary Health Statistics for Homecare Advocate Blog

Happy Halloween everyone!  We’ve compiled a list of some of the scariest health care statistics for our latest Homecare Advocate post.  Read on if you dare.

Scary Statistics:

Medical errors accounted for $19.5 billion in the US in 2008, with an estimated 6.3 million medical injuries and 2,500 preventable deaths. (SOA)

Medical bills accounted for 62% of all bankruptcy claims in 2007, a 50% increase since 2001 when it was at 46%. (CNN)

By 2020, the US will have an estimated 20% shortage of registered nurses for the workforce requirements.  (American Nursing Assoc.

$3.9 billion was spent on treating bed sores (that are “almost always considered to be the result of an error” in 2008. Post-operative infections were $3.7 billion.  (Wall Street Journal)

Health insurance is projected to increase by 3.9% for 2012, with many employers raising deductibles and moving employees to lower-cost health plans. (CNN)

A private room in a nursing home cost $83,585 per year on average. (US News)

$7,538: annual US spending in health care per person (compared to Norway at $5,004).  However, the US still ranks last among first-world countries in health. (Wall Street Journal)

However, hold out for HOPE!  Tomorrow begins Homecare Month and National Family Caregivers Month, so we’re going to explore some wonderful solutions throughout the entire month of November.  Stay tuned!


Food Power

Tomorrow I’m headed to the food Mecca of the south, New Orleans!  In honor of this city and the fabulous food it offers, we’re going to explore the important role that food plays in senior health.  In a previous Homecare Advocate post we addressed the importance of food preventing falls, so let’s take it a step further and address 7 common food questions.

Homecare Advocate: Power Food

1) How many calories do seniors need each day?

Your ideal caloric intake depends on a few factors.  Are you exercising or physically active?  If so, you will need to consume more calories to offset what you burn off in activity (women need about 1800 calories, men between 2200-2400 calories).  Likewise, those who are very physically active need the most (women 2000, men 2400-2800), and those who are inactive need less (women 1600, men 2000).  However, proper nutrition is more than just the calories you consume each day.

2) What kind of problems can develop from malnutrition?

Malnutrition is often associated with hunger, but it is more about the lack of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals the body needs to be healthy.  According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition may be caused by a combination of physical, social, and psychological features.  Malnutrition can lead to serious health problems, including a weakened immune system, difficulty with wounds healing in a timely fashion, and muscle weakness.  Each of these issues can complicate other health risks and compound a person’s health problems.

3) What kinds of food can I eat to minimize inflammation from my arthritis?

A classic Mediterranean diet of fish & healthy fats, vegetables, and  fruits is rich in foods that help reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.  The Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and rainbow trout can help with joint stiffness, swelling, and pain.  When cooking, try using extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter for a healthier meal, as this oil is also linked to decreased inflammation.  Certain antioxidants may help prevent and slow arthritis progression, so consider adding the following to your diet: sweet peppers, broccoli, kidney beans, cantaloupe, oranges, tuna, tilapia, whole-wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and more.  Anthocyanidins such as blackberries, eggplant, raspberries, and plums help fight free radicals that may cause inflammation.

4) With 1 in 8 older Americans developing Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, what foods can help increase focus?

Start your day by eating breakfast; several studies suggest it can help improve short-term memory!  Omega-3 fatty acids (described above) have strong correlations to brain performance and are linked to lower dementia/stroke, enhancing memory, and prolonging cognitive reasoning.  Blueberries  and acai berries are the super-fruits of brainpower.  A study done by the USDA and Tufts University even revealed that blueberries can reverse age-related brain decline!  Nuts, fish with Omega-3 fatty acids, and brightly colored vegetables/fruit are key players in minimizing your risk for dementia.

5) As a senior, am I at a higher risk for dehydration?  What effects can it have on my body and mind?

Yes, seniors are especially susceptible to dehydration due to your body’s dulled sense of thirst.  Dehydration an lead to headaches, urinary tract infections, constipation, and even confusion.  It is est not to drink sports drinks that can be high in sugar.  Classic H20 is the route to go.

6) I’ve never been a big vegetable and fruit eater.  What creative ways can I add them to my diet?

If you’re tired of broccoli and carrots every night or avoid fruits and vegetables all together, you may be interested in checking out some of these recipes that infuse fruits and vegetables into healthy smoothies.  You still get the nutrients you need but can now experiment and create your custom signature healthy drink.  Check out this raw vegetable smoothie by Dr. Bill Harris or this delicious banana smoothie found on Spark Recipes.  Concoct an interesting combination of your own?  Send it to us at advocate(at), and we may post it on our blog!

7) My medication makes food taste bland, yet too much salt is bad for me.  How else can I put more flavor in my food?

The National Institute of Health has a fabulous Web site that highlights healthy flavorings, herbs, and spices to be used on specific meat and vegetable products.  It suggests dill or thyme on your green beans, garlic on your potatoes, and nutmeg on your summer squash.  Delicious!  For fish, try curry powder or pepper.  Chicken, one of the most versatile meats of the American diet can be complimented with ginger, paprika, poultry seasoning, sage, rosemary, and much more.  I hope this inspires you!

Speaking of inspired, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to share this article by The Times-Picayune that told how Chef Marilyn Doucette of New Orleans was transforming lives by giving new life to New Orleans classics with a healthy spin.  Read this article for her low-sodium tricks, healthy substitutions, and an encouraging story of how one woman is changing the way we see food one meal at a time.  She now owns a catering business, which you can learn more about here.  I’m excited about trying her home-cooked, authentically healthy Creole food later this week!

Though New Orleans is famous for Po Boys, beignets, and king cake, I also wanted to share some healthier recipes true NO style that touch on some of our super foods we addressed above.  Try New Orleans Red Beans & Rice, Cajun Chicken Pasta with whole wheat, Creole Tomato Salad and Cajun-Seasoned Pan-Fried Tilapia with vegetables.  Send in your own recipes, and we may post them on an upcoming Homecare Advocate post!


Atlanta to Host Homecare Consumer Advocacy Day

Atlanta to Host Consumer Homecare Advocacy Day October 2011

Homecare recipients and caregivers, mark your calendars to attend an important event 2 weeks from today, October 27th.  This is the third annual Consumer Advocacy Day at Medtrade in Atlanta, Georgia that allows the public to come see new advancements in home medical technology and learn about how to deal with mobility, disease, and respiratory/sleep issues.  Many also come to become more informed on government changes that affect your ability to have access to services and equipment by your trusted home medical equipment providers.

Accessible Home

At Homecare Advocate, we are particularly excited about this year’s Medtrade Accessible Home.  This home is completely outfitted in accessible features that enable people to live independently and safely in their homes.  It was thoughtfully designed by Accessible Home Improvements of America and Nationwide Homes and is equipped with state-of-the -art technologies that are offered by many of the vendors at Medtrade.  Whether you’re building a custom home or looking for ways to modify the home you’re already living in, the Accessible Home is an invaluable resource and will provide you with numerous options for you to consider as you address each of your needs.

Innovative Products

Consumer Advocacy Day is also an excellent opportunity for you to see the latest innovative products by over 550 medical equipment companies.   You can browse the expo floor to learn about new products just entering the marketplace for the first time and to talk to the companies that directly make medical equipment about how their products can help you.

So many of our customers at Lambert’s are surprised at the wide variety of products available to help them that they didn’t even know existed.  We get excited about attending Medtrade each year because we know we’ll find new technologies and products that we can introduce to our customers back home that will help them improve the quality of their lives.  In fact, we founded our Home Modifications Division years ago after attending Medtrade and seeing all of the ways we could help our customers live safely in their accessible home with our help.  You will be overwhelmed with the variety of resources available to you at Medtrade!


Last year “The Little Couple” stars Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein of TLC came to Medtrade and spoke about consumer self-advocacy as well as ways to ensure you have access to products and services that adapt your home environment to fit your particular needs.  I’m looking forward to another great day of quality speakers talking to homecare recipients and their families about how they can better manage diseases and/or disability.

Schedule of Events for Consumer Advocacy Day:

  • 9:00-10:00am — Medtrade Accessible Home VIP Tour (Expo Floor)
  • 10:30-11:00am — Educational Session: Medicare, What You Don’t Know Will Make You Sick
  • 11:30am-Noon — Mobility Session: How to Get the Mobility You Need in This Age of Funding Constraints
  • 12:30-1:00pm — Diabetic Session: Access to Quality Diabetic Supplies in a Competitive Bidding Environment
  • 1:15-1:45pm — Respiratory Session: CPAP, Bi-Level, & Interfaces: What You Need to Know

*all educational sessions will be held in the Consumer Lounge & Theater adjacent to Booth 163 on the Expo Floor.

I encourage each of you to consider the short drive to Atlanta for an empowering, education-filled day that will better equip you for what lies ahead.  You can learn more about this free event by visiting Medtrade’s site or calling 508-743-0519.  Hope to see you there!


Retirement and Long-Term Care

Homecare Advocate Blog Post: Retirement and Long Term CareMost Baby Boomers are expecting a healthy, active retirement according to a new poll conducted by Harvard School of Public Health, NPR, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  However, are these Golden Years slightly Gilded?  Unlike generations before, these boomers are more aware of the fiscal consequences of long-term care and don’t necessarily feel financially prepared, perhaps from the experience of caring for an aging parent themselves.  In fact, this generation of boomers see things quite differently from those before them, particularly concerning their physical and financial health in the years ahead.

The expectations of “pre-retiree” boomers was compared against the realities of current “retirees” in this study, and it produced some staggering realizations about our new generation of seniors and their outlook on retirement, health, and quality of life.  Over 1200 pre-retirees and retirees were surveyed and asked about key areas of retirement life, including finances, health, institutional care, and more.

The results?  A disconnect between those who anticipate retiring versus those who are retired.  As Jeff Goldsmith, author of The Long Baby Boom: An Optimistic Vision for a Graying Generation, puts it, “There is no question that one distinguishing feature of our generation is this extraordinary, almost genetic optimism.  And the poll results look to me like a lot of that optimism was drawn from a deep well of self-delusion.”  This poll confirms what we saw at the Knoxville Home Remodeling Show a few weekends back (which we blogged about in the last post on psychological barriers to independence at home).  As the Huffington Post columnist Glenn Braunstein, MD quipped, ” Americans are notorious disease-and death-deniers. We cling to the fantasy that death will come quickly and peacefully as we sleep and only when we’re age 100 and have earlier taken a brisk walk, read the Wall Street Journal and had a romp in the hay.  It doesn’t happen that way.”

This poll touched on some of the delicate issues we must each consider as we plan for our future and for aging.  To have the retirement we desire, we must have an honest discussion about what our needs are, what they will be, and what resources will be needed to take care of ourselves. Here are some of the significant findings from the poll:

“Pre-retirees may under estimate the challenges of retirement.”

13% of pre-retirees expect their health to be worse in retirement, but 39% of current retirees say that their health is worse than it was 5 years prior to retiring.

“Finances play a key role in the decision to delay or even avoid retirement among those not yet retired.”

54% of pre-retirees are deliberately postponing their retirement due to their financial situation.  Many suffered in the economic collapse of 2008 and do not feel financially secure enough to retire as early as they may have originally planned to.  Renowned financial planner Dave Ramsey offers a financial investment calculator on his Web site that helps individuals estimate the savings they will need to accrue for comfortable retirement.

“While pre-retirees and retirees agree on many community characteristics that keep retirees healthy, retirees draw attention to drug store access.”

Community pharmacies and home medical companies are a vital but often overlooked component of remaining healthy at home for many older Americans.  77% of retirees cited the importance of access as a critical component of them maintaining a healthy lifestyle and remaining in their homes.  Likewise, a September study of 2000 Americans by Harris Interactive revealed that nearly 4 of 5 Americans think the federal government should strengthen patient access to home medical equipment and services.  If programs like the ill-conceived Competitive Bidding eliminate suppliers, our seniors will feel the void and suffer as result.

Paying for Long Term Health Care

Of particular interest to us at Homecare Advocate was boomers’ impression of long-term care.  Though they better understood the cost of care, they were not well informed on the resources that paid for it.  The study revealed that 32% of pre-retirees and 43% of retirees thought that Medicare would pay for the majority cost of their 3-month nursing home stay if needed and only 10% and 7% thought Medicaid would, respectively.  However, the National Health Policy Forum revealed that in 2009 the $203.2 billion dollars spent on long-term services and supports was largely covered by Medicaid.  Over 10 million Americans currently need long-term care for daily living, and there are strict qualifiers like a very small income and essentially no assets in order for Medicaid to pay.  Medicare, on the other hand, does not pay for long-term care and would only temporarily pay for a nursing home stay in the instances of rehabilitation or skilled nursing care after a qualifying hospital stay of 3 days.  Neither Medicare nor Medicaid will pay for Assisted Living and will not cover personal support services like grooming, bathing, meal preparation and eating, and more.  Both Medicare and Medicaid are undergoing significant budgetary changes at the state and federal level, and boomers and seniors must be prepared for what lies ahead.

The poll also echoed a recent AARP study that revealed that 89% of people want to remain in their current home for the rest of their lives.  In the poll, pre-retirees and retirees alike were “very” or “somewhat” worried about the prospect of being admitted into a nursing home, citing:

  • an institutional environment is not as comfortable as home (82%; 78%)
  • cleanliness of the facility (78%; 74%)
  • having too few nurses for the care needed (77%; 69%)
  • quality of health provided (76%; 69%)
  • limited privacy (74%; 65%)

What about long-term care?

“More than 2/3 said they were very or somewhat likely to have trouble paying for long-term care if they or a spouse needed it.  That’s slightly more than the 3/5 who feared they might have trouble paying overall medical bills” reports NPR.

According to the National Advisory Center for Long Term Care Insurance, those 65 and over have a 70% chance of needing long-term care at some point.   The American Association for Long Term Care Insurance says that long term care is a woman’s issue because of longevity and caregiving.  Since women live longer than men, the women are typically caregivers for their spouse.  However, when widowed, they have no one to care for them and can develop more chronic health problems with their longer life-span.

Dave Ramsey strongly advocates for Long-Term Care Insurance for older Americans aged 60 and older.  “I’m a huge fan of this insurance. If you become ill, it ensures that your spouse will have enough money to eat and your kids won’t be burdened with huge payments. Not having LTC insurance can be a $300,000 to $400,000 mistake.”

Rebalancing Act

As our population ages, a rebalancing act is occurring in several states throughout the country as older adults and people with disabilities seek long-term services and desire to remain at home.  Yesterday groups met on Capitol Hill to discuss long-term care options and to gain a better understanding of how we can efficiently and effectively care for people needing long-term health care services.  The forum, held by the Alliance for Health Reform and the Commonwealth Fund, focused on serving more people through home and community based services than through institutional care.

Homecare is cost-effective, patient preferred, and results in better clinical outcomes than institutional care.  Tennessee is one of the growing number of states that supports home and community based options for seniors through its CHOICES Program. 61% of Americans favor investment in community- or home-based care to improve cost-effective health care.   A homecare-based approach will address the goal of former President John F. Kennedy who eloquently stated, “It’s not good enough for a nation merely to add new years to life–our objective must also be to add new life to those years.”

As a fellow Homecare Advocate, I encourage you to learn more about long-term care and how you can prepare yourself for the future so that you can truly enjoy the golden years.