Monday, December 29, 2014

Researchers look for genes that lead to resilience against Alzheimer's; readers weigh in

An article in the New York Times Monday Dec. 29, by Gina Kolata, discusses “The Resilience Project”, which will look for extra genes that help individuals in families susceptible to Alzheimer’s or other degenerative diseases escape the disease when in fact they have the target gene.  The link is here. The article gave the story of a particular Doug Whitney, who has tested positive for a gene that causes very early dementia, but has not developed symptoms for years.  The question is, do some people have a second “resilience gene” that prevents the destructive gene from being expressed.
Page 19 of the Review Section, on Sunday December 28, 2014 in the NYT, in the column by Nicolas Kristoff, “The Readers Do Get It” (or “Alzheimer’s in the Open”), expressed that readers do get the nature of the moral problem the disease poses, link 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Court overrules Labor Department on mandatory overtime for some caregivers

On Dec. 22, US District court judge Richard Leon struck down a Labor Department ruling guaranteeing caregivers overtime in some circumstances.  Think Progress posted a big story on Facebook today here.   Sam Hanahel has a source story from AP here
The judge said that Congress simply didn’t give the administration the power to overrule the exceptions for primary “fellowship and protection” jobs, almost viewing them as a kind of servitude.
The ruling certainly is not good for immigrant women who often fill these jobs, and blunts the effect of the eldercare caregiving crisis on a personal level for upper middle class families. 
Picture: Start of Piney Ridge Trail on Skyline Drive, VA, site of my very first mountain hike in 1961. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Some younger adults start looking at how to avoid Alzheimer's in the family; one idea is intermittent fasting

There is new interest among younger adults in being tested for genetic markers for Alzheimer’s and possibly making lifestyle interventions.
NBC Nightly News presented a 32-year-old musician whose mother is showing signs of dementia at 62.  He did some genetic work and found he has a genetically determined protein titer that has been associated with dementia.
Must stricter dieting may help.  There are studies that suggest increased social interaction will help, as well as brain exercises.  And music itself seems to help forestall dementia. 

There is a related story in Bloomberg about the idea of intermittent 2-day fasts forestalling Alzheimer’s.   It’s not clear while whole day fasts would somehow reduce the process of plaque formation. I can remember that one of the camps at Lama Foundation back in the 1980s (in NM) was "purification through fasting."  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Congress agrees to let some multi-employer pensions plans cut benefits to existing retirees

The bipartisan, lame duck spending bill, designed to avoid government shutdown, will allow financially troubled multi-employer pensions plans to cut pensions, often by as much as one third, even to existing retirees, people receiving benefits.  The Pension Rights Center is obviously very critical of this measure, as in this article.
Michael A. Fletcher has a similar story in the Washington Post, p. A12, Wednesday, here .“Deal reached to allow pension benefit cuts; move, affecting current retirees, is an effort to save distressed plans”.
It would seem that affected pensioners have no recourse.  The PBGC is not part of the process.  
For more people all the time, our system is not working.  

Update:  Dec. 13

Michelle Singletary writes in the Washington Post, "Your pension could go poof.  Do you have a backup plan?"  here. PBGC has a deficit of $19.3 billion even for single-employer plans.  She warns, you're increasingly on your own. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Are men taking on more parental caregiving now?; also, fasting and Alzheimer's

A Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post Wednesday, December 10, 2014, p. A20, “Elder care: Caregiving has challenges and rewards, no matter your gender” relates a male “shortcircuiting” his career, without spouse and siblings, to care for his mother in later years, link here.   The letter links to a Dec. 6 article by Frederick Kunkle, “Daughters tend to aging parents more often than their sons, but some are seeking a change.”
The letter points out changing gender roles, but longer life spans are a disability.  I was in this situation for seven years after I came back to “Old Virginny” (2003-2010), and one of the emotions was indeed a sense of humiliation, as I was in my 60s myself.  I landed well enough, but with new questions (another discussion – people wonder why I am not more “sociable” or “personally giving”).  We did hire help here for the last years, and mother had the savings to pay for it, thanks to my late father’s conservative investing habits for several decades (he never took chances with losing principal on anything and still made about 10% a year on what my parents had)  
The growing moral questions, about obligations to parents, taken on an increasingly personal (and gender-bending) nature and even raise fundamental questions about marriage and procreation.  
Update: Later Wednesday

There is a story that intermittent fasting may help forestall Alzheimer's.  I'll look into it further.  Here is an account in Bloomberg.  It was mentioned on WJLA in Washington local news this evening, 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Should seniors be "expected" to volunteer or be part of national service?

With all the sporadic talk of national service, which always comes up after a national controversy (right now, police and race), and with some of the talk having focused on young adults (18-28 in McChrystal’s scheme), a fair question is, what about seniors?
After my layoff at the end of 2001 (when I was 58), I did vet the Peace Corps a bit while still in Minneapolis.  I was told that the oldest volunteer they had overseas was 82.  There are positions for information technology volunteers.
I actually got a paper application.  The questionnaire was relentless in seeing how socially connected the applicant was, including working closely with other people in very personal situations.  I did not have that kind of history so I did not pursue it.
I also heard about a position called “senior home companion” which paid a small stipend.  You could not be “hired” for that until you were 60.  I had no concept of how personal it could get.
There is a Senior Corps, as explained here

I’m not much on bureaucratized programs.  You can get an idea on what it does from the photo album there. There is a difference between local volunteering and "service programs".