Monday, July 28, 2014

NBC Today show gives quiz on "biological age"; music therapy can halt dementia

The NBC Today show on Monday morning offered a quiz to help a viewer to assess her own biological age, link here. I couldn’t get the NIH link on body mass index to resolve, so I had to estimate mine.  I wound up with a score of -20, or 2 years credit, making my biological age “just” 69.
But some of the questions were interesting. 

One of the most critical was level of social engagement.  Volunteering is a big plus – but that means time and personal contact – especially giving less intact people (children or adults) personal attention and “love” – not just writing a check (or even working alone on a website or Wikipedia article for a charity). Another was to have a web of people who can help “you” in a pinch.  This sounds like social communism or collectivism and might come across as morally objectionable to some.  It certainly is not what Ayn Rand believed.  It’s more what happens in closed knot communities, like the Amish, or intentional communities.  People do tend to live longer in these circumstances.

Mehmet Oz (somewhat discredited recently) has said that, as a heart surgeon, he is much more likely to recommend aggressive treatment to a married patient with a partner whom he or she loves and who loves the person back – or to someone whose extended family is close knit. It’s much more likely to work if others will sacrifice.

As far as getting help in a pinch, that is indeed double edge in another sense.  Bad things happen to people.  I’m not talking about the normal aging issues – because everybody dies of something eventually, without exception (except for Christ).  I am talking about sudden harm because of the malice of others – whether street criminals, who are becoming more brazen, or war or terrorism.  I’m also talking about natural disasters, particularly if they are unusual for the area in which someone lives.  An F4 tornado in this area would be devastating, but an F0 (which I think has happened “to me” once) would not.  But if I lived in Florida, on the Gulf Coast or much of the Midwest, I’d have a full disaster plan in place, with an alternate place to go and set up operations temporarily.  (Funny, when I lived in Dallas and Minneapolis, or was a student in Kansas, or in the Army, I never thought about this.)  What would be bad for me would be a disaster so calamitous (including a terror attack like a dirty bomb) that normal preparations (like generators, hotels, homeowner’s insurance, availability of contractors) didn’t work as they are supposed to.  I’ve never had to stay in a shelter before and deal with others there (or have them deal with me).  But it could happen to anyone.
So I try to be more cautious about a lot of things,  avoid “mistakes” and some kinds of dangerous situations.   I was mugged at a Metro station, on an escalator, in Washington in March 2013, not injured and with no financial losses resulting – the banks and particularly Metro ate all the losses (in many thousands) – as a security camera wasn’t working.  But what if I had been pushed down the escalator?  It could have been much worse.  And twice I’ve faced a possible carjacking (once was in Ohio) and simply gunned and sped off and called police when at a safe distance (Mark Zuckerberg did the same thing on time right after moving to CA to start Facebook).   But I may have been “lucky”.

On a weekend trip at the end of June to NYC for Pride, I almost got hit by a car (or had a foot run over) in lower Manhattan Sunday morning as I was racing to the 9/11 Memorial site (I was late), the car speeding and making a very illegal turn.  I jumped out of the way just in time. 
The survey gave no "credit" for hot having ever smoked (or used recreational drugs); but it penalized tobacco use heavily.  It gave modest uptick for very occasional alcohol use. 
The survey didn’t mention some others things.  While it asked about regular exercise, it didn’t ask about mental exercise.  Playing chess is good (or any game requiring strategy – card games like bridge or poker – and Las Vegas is probably pretty good for stimulating cognitive thinking).  So is jotting down dreams as soon as you wake up before you forget them.  I don’t think that the Bingo, popular in assisted living centers, does much.


One idea for improving cognition and longevity is music therapy, as shown in the film “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory” and promoted by the group “Music & Memory”, as reviewed on my Movies Blog July 26 (with the QA, at Landmark E Street Theater in Washington DC, July 25).  

Update: July 29

NBC Nightly News cited a report that regular running or fast walking, even for only about ten minutes three times a week, can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 45% at any age over 50. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another elder abuse case involving a hot car, this time at a casino near Baltimore, MD

There is a second conspicuous case of elder neglect reported by station WJLA n Washington DC, this time closer to Baltimore, in northern Anne Arundel County.  A man, Dwight McGinnis, 67, from North Carolina, is alleged to have left his mother, 98, in a car for a number of hours while he was in the “Maryland Live!” casino. But it appears to have been inside a garage, which would have been shaded, with a temperature of about 81 degrees F.  However, the mother was not able to get out on her own. The mother is wheelchair bound.  A passerby called police.  WJLA-7 has the detailed story here.  The man was arrested and charged with “vulnerable adult abuse” as the law is written in Maryland.

I had been told that a patient on memory-enhancing medication (Aricept) should not be left alone, by a case worker from a home health company, when my mother had started it in 2009.  I don’t know if that would be absolute, or would be on a “case by case” basis. 
Maryland does have a filial responsibility law (see July 7, 2007).  Apparently North Carolina does, too, according to a list from the New York Times by Jane Gross (link), mentioned here May 15, 2014.  There was a case in Washington DC (which does not have a filial responsibility law) reported here July 9, 2014. .
The fact that an adult is incapacitated (even if not elder) may be more important than age itself.  Family relations may not matter when someone takes "responsibility" for an incapacitated adult, for example, by giving him a ride in a car.  People should bear this in mind when volunteering.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eye doctor's retinal exam may predict future Alzheimer's

NBC News reported tonight on a new eye test that looks for changes in the retina of the eye for possible early warning signs of future Alzheimer’s Disease.  Apparently the plaque buildup that occurs eventually in neural brain circuits can be seen on certain areas of the retina.


NBC also reported on a study in Finland where people ages 62-77 were monitored as to memory function after an aggressive healthful lifestyle program compared to a control group.  After a few years, the people on the aggressive program did better on the memory tests.  It wasn’t clear if this had been correlated yet to the retinal test.  Other studies report that dementia is less prevalent at any age group than it was 50 years ago (apparently 40% less prevalent by population percentage at age 75, according to a Finnish study).    
A good question, though, is what can be done with the "bad news".         

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Washington DC case shows that prosecutions for elder neglect and abuse can occur

It is possible to be prosecuted for criminal neglect of elders (including parents) within one’s care.  A disturbing incident in Washington DC, reported by ABC affiliate WJLA-7, demonstrates that point.  A 29-year old mother is charged with criminal neglect after leaving her 63-year old mother, a stroke survivor, in a hot car all day.   The story with a video (an attempt to interview the suspect) is here. The parties seem to be from North Carolina. 
The case might get more attention in the media because of a horrific case in Georgia of child abuse where a child died when left in a hot car.  

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Supreme Court limits right of public unions to collect dues from non-member home health workers

The Supreme Court has ruled that home-care workers in Illinois cannot be forced to pay dues to a union that negotiated their compensation, even those not belonging to the union.  But the ruling does not necessarily apply to non home-care workers, even those in other lines of work who are not union members but who benefit from negotiations.  The Washington Post analysis on p A8 Tuesday by Michael Feltcher is here.    The Supreme Court slip opinion (Harris v. Quinn) is here. The Court ruled that requiring dues payment would force home care workers to subsidize political speech that they do not personally support, possibly in part because of the sensitive problems associated with the eldercare issues.  The case could be of significance to those hired to give home health care to elders.  See also story on June 3. 

The New York Times weighs in with an editorial "Limiting Rights: a Hit to Collective Bargaining" (link), which is paired with a similarly motivated editorial on the contraception and religious employers ruling, "Limiting Rights: Imposing Religion on Workers"/