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Affiliated with the Rhode Island AFL-CIO “Fighting for the future of our members.” “NOW, more than ever!!!” Publication 2018 Issue 12 Published in house by the RI ARA

March 25, 2018 E-Newsletter

All Rights Reserved RI ARA 2018©

Congress Tackles The Opioid Epidemic. But How Much Will It Help? The nation’s opioid epidemic has been called today’s version of the 1980s AIDS crisis. In a speech Monday, President Donald Trump pushed for a tougher federal response, emphasizing a tough-on-crime approach for drug dealers and more funding for treatment. And Congress is upping the ante, via a series of hearings — including one scheduled to last Wednesday through Thursday — to study legislation that might tackle the unyielding scourge, which has cost an estimated $1 trillion in premature deaths, health care costs and lost wages since 2001. Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician by training and the health commissioner for hard-hit Baltimore, said Capitol Hill has to help communities at risk of becoming overwhelmed. “We haven’t seen the peak of the epidemic. We are seeing the numbers climb year after year,”

she said. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that almost 45,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in the 12-month period ending July 2017, up from about 38,000 in the previous cycle. (Those data are likely to change, since many death certificates have not yet been reported to the CDC.) “It’s not going to get any better unless we take dramatic action,” Wen said. And the time for most meaningful change could be dwindling. Advocates say what they need most is money, which would most likely come through the government spending bill that’s due March 23. But they aren’t holding their breath. Show Me The Money The federal budget deal, which was signed into law in early February, promised $6 billion over two years for

initiatives to fight opioid abuse. Congress is still figuring out how to divvy up those funds. The blueprint is expected to be included in the spending bill this week. Last month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would add another $1 billion in funding to support expanded treatment and also limit clinicians to prescribing no more than three days’ worth of opioids at a time. That legislation is likely to have wide support in the Senate, but its path through the House is less certain. This cash infusion is still not going to be enough, predicted Daniel Raymond, policy director for the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national organization that works on overdose prevention. “It’s not clear whether there’s a real appetite to go as far as we need to see Congress go,” he

said. “To have a fighting chance, we need a long-term commitment of at least $10 billion per year.” Academic experts said that assessment sounded on target. The figure is more than three times what’s allocated in the budget and 10 times what even the new Senate bill would provide, and far beyond the spending levels put forth by any previous packages to fight the opioid epidemic. The difficulty in getting funding — and a key reason why the bipartisan Senate bill might stall in the House — in part goes to the heart of Republicans’ philosophy about budgeting. “We have an enormous set of costs ahead of us if we don’t invest now,” said Dr. Traci Green, an associate professor of emergency medicine and community health science at Boston University, who has extensively researched the epidemic. ...Read More

Trump Offers Tough Talk but Few Details in Unveiling Plan to Combat Opioids President Trump made his first visit to New Hampshire since the 2016 campaign on Monday, unveiling a plan to combat the opioid epidemic that includes a push for the death penalty for drug dealers and a crackdown on illegal immigrants. Mr. Trump spoke in a state with the nation’s third-highest rate of deaths from overdoses and where opioids are a potent political issue. In a speech at a community college here, he

offered up more tough talk than he did specifics about his plan, or how he would pay for it. The president said that most of the heroin in the country comes in from the southern border, “where eventually the Democrats will agree with us and build the wall to keep the damn drugs out”; he denounced so-called sanctuary cities, which he blamed for an uptick in overdoses; and he called for harsher penalties for drug dealers.

“If we don’t get tougher on drug dealers, we are wasting our time,” Mr. Trump said, later adding, “That toughness includes the death penalty” — a position that was at odds with what White House officials told reporters on Sunday. The president said that he had spoken to leaders of Asian countries “where they don’t play games,” an apparent reference to conversations he has described having with President Xi Jinping of China and President

Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who told him that the death penalties in their countries meant there was less of a drug problem. White House officials would not answer what type of hypothetical case would involve the death penalty, referring questions to the Justice Department….Read More

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Medicare Rights Report Shows Enrollment, Coverage, and Affordability Issues Continue to be Challenges for People with Medicare that the real-life experiences of people with Medicare who are trying to access needed health care are taken into account and Today, the Medicare Rights acted on to improve the Center released its annual Medicare program.” helpline trends report, which The report, Medicare Trends outlines ongoing challenges and Recommendations: An facing people with Medicare Analysis of 2016 Call Data heard through thousands of calls from the Medicare Rights to its national consumer Center’s National Helpline, rehelpline. examines the top three issues “Year after year, our findings heard on Medicare Rights’ from the analysis of our national helpline in prior years. Each helpline data show that too issue is demonstrated through many older adults and people clients’ stories heard on the with disabilities have problems helpline, which the Centers for navigating the complexities of Medicare & Medicaid Services the Medicare program and (CMS), state agencies, insurers, affording their coverage. But elected officials, and other there are straight-forward stakeholders can use as a basis solutions for alleviating these to strengthen the Medicare challenges and strengthening the program for the more than 58 Medicare program as a whole,” million people it serves. said Joe Baker, president of the Out of almost 17,000 questions Medicare Rights Center, a posed by older adults, people national, nonprofit consumer with disabilities, and their service organization. “It’s time caregivers in 2016, a variety of

trends highlighted in the past annual Trends reports continue to stand out among the questions from helpline callers. In this report, we:  Revisit Part B enrollment as a confusing process for people transitioning from other types of health insurance coverage.  Identify Medicare Advantage plan coverage and network issues.  Highlight Medicare affordability concerns due to escalating Medicare Part D drug costs.

“The problems heard each year on the Medicare Rights helpline show the need for practical policy solutions to address some of the challenges faced by people with Medicare,” said Baker. “Members of Congress and the Administration should view this report as a continuing call to action. With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, there is no time to wait to make Medicare easier to navigate and more affordable, so that it is an even stronger benefit.” Read the report.

People with Medicare Burdened with Higher Health Care Spending disabilities each year. And while the incomes of Medicare beneficiaries are extremely variable, the vast majority The Kaiser Family cannot afford to pay more for Foundation recently released a care. In 2016, half of all report with new data on how beneficiaries had incomes below much people with Medicare $26,200, and one-quarter had paid for health care in 2016 as a incomes below $15,250. share of their total spending. That same year, Medicare These data show that Medicare households spent 14% of their households spend a higher total spending on health care– proportion of their incomes on more than double that of nonhealth care coverage, services, Medicare households (6%). This and drugs than non-Medicare spending included insurance households. This is important premiums, medical care, information when discussing medical supplies, and what policies should be enacted prescription drugs. Both groups to protect or improve dedicated similar amounts to Medicare’s affordability, food, housing, and especially for those with tight transportation, but Medicare household budgets and fixed households cut back sharply on incomes. education, entertainment, and Medicare provides health care apparel. coverage to nearly 60 million Medicare households are also older adults and people with far more likely than their non-

Medicare counterparts to devote at least 20% of their total spending to health care. Nearly one out of every three Medicare households spent 20% or more of their total spending on health care, compared with about one in 20 for non-Medicare households. More than one in 10 Medicare households spent over 30%, and one in 25 spent 40% or more. And the share of Medicare households with health care spending at this level increased with age, as needs rise. The report found spending on health expenses as a share of total spending to be highly related to the age of the oldest member of the household. When the oldest household member was 65-74, around one in four Medicare households spent 20% or more. But when the oldest member was 85 or older, the number of

households spending 20% on health care rose to two out of five, or 40%. These findings demonstrate how vulnerable many people with Medicare are to rising costs. The modest incomes of many Medicare households, coupled with demographic shifts that are increasing the number of beneficiaries aged 85+ means that we must redouble our focus on affordability to ensure all people with Medicare are able to receive the appropriate care that is part of the Medicare guarantee. Read the report.

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New Polling on Social Security, Medicare, and Prescription Drug Prices Voters overwhelmingly support expanding Social Security and Medicare, as well as taking federal action to lower drug prices. (Washington, DC) — This week, Social Security Works released new data from Public Policy Polling that shows registered voters are far more likely to back candidates who

support expanding Social Security, expanding Medicare, and taking federal action to lower prescription drug prices.  84% of voters are more likely to back candidates who support taking federal action to lower prescription drug prices, vs. 11% who ar e less likely  66% of voters are more likely to back candidates who

support expanding and increasing Social Security benefits, vs. 18% who ar e less likely  64% of voters are more likely to back candidates who support expanding Medicare, vs. 22% who are less likely “Anyone seeking elected office needs to fight for what the people want,” said Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social

Security Works. “Americans will flock to candidates who run on expanding, not cutting, Social Security and Medicare. Families crushed by prescription drug prices will enthusiastically support political leaders who take on big pharma’s greed. ” The full poll results, including breakdowns across age, race, gender, and party affiliation, are available here.

Graphic: Opioid Painkiller Is Top Prescription In 11 States Americans fill about 4.5 billion prescriptions each year, at a cost of more than $323 billion. But what ar e we actually buying? In 11 states, the top prescriptions are opioid pain pills that are mixtures of acetaminophen and hydrocodone (brand names Vicodin and Norco), according to new data from GoodRx, an online prescription cost service. The company looked at the top 10 drugs prescribed in each state from March 2017 to February 2018 and then presented the data as a map. “There’s a geography to medications,” said Thomas Goetz, chief of research at GoodRx. “Our goal is to start bringing more transparency to drugs and drug pricing

information.” In more than half of states, Synthroid and its generics — to treat hypothyroidism — came in at No. 1. About 123 million prescriptions for the drug were written in 2016. And despite recent controversy questioning its effectiveness in the elderly, more than 15 percent of older adults are prescribed the drug. Though opioid prescriptions appear to be on the decline, Vicodin and Norco remain popular, especially in the South. In Tennessee, however, Suboxone, a medication used to

treat opioid addiction, is even more popular. Oddly, Adderall and generic versions of the medicine for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder are the most prescribed drugs in South Carolina. Drugs to treat high blood pressure and cholesterol were also widely prescribed. Geoffrey Joyce, director of health policy at the Schaeffer Center at the University of Southern California, warns that the data represented in the map could give a misleading picture of prescription drug patterns. It

looks at individual drug products instead of larger classes of drugs used to treat a given medical issue. Overall, when similar types of drugs are grouped together the most common prescriptions are for drugs to treat high blood pressure, pain and mental health issues, according to recent data from IQVIA, a health data company. GoodRx offers discounts on prescription drugs and provides an online tool that allows consumers to compare what a drug will cost at local pharmacies. Its state-by-state data come from several sources, including pharmacies and insurers, and reflect millions of prescriptions.

Tax bill is attack on US retirees Americans, but especially senior citizens and retirees, are facing a massive attack on their living standards as result of the Republican bill cutting $1.5 trillion in taxes, overwhelmingly for billionaires and the top 1 percent. This terrible bill, passed without a single non-Republican vote, is based publicly on completely debunked “trickledown” economics. A classic “bait and switch,” it is being sold to the public as a “tax cut for all,” but according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, more than 80 percent of

the cuts are going to the wealthiest 1 percent of our nation, who least need it. This is creating a massive deficit, one that House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top Republicans are preparing to use as a political weapon to cut funding to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Already GOP leaders are talking of the “need to tackle entitlement reform.” This is outrageous. Working Americans

have paid into these programs their entire lives, helping create a level of retiree security in our nation that has not only provided a decent life for these retirees and their families but has buoyed the entire economy during economic downturns. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans passed a huge tax cut for the wealthy and are citing the $1.5 trillion hole this has created in our budget as a reason

they now need to cut these essential programs, to fill the hole they dug. This is economically dumb in the extreme and would push millions of retired Americans into poverty and would greatly harm the economic life of our communities. We cannot, economically or morally, afford these gifts to billionaires. I believe the moral deficit this attack on retirees would create is far more important. Our economy will be horribly harmed, but our nation’s soul may never recover.

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HEY BETSY DeVOS….by Jessica Kerner Scruggs Because our grandchildren are involved and deserve the best in the PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM. A Facebook post by Jessica Kerner Scruggs and shared by Robyn Smith Peterson. Hey Betsy DeVos, I heard you say you’ve never visited an underperforming school. I have a few more questions for you... Have you ever spent the entire day sweating, with general malaise and stuffiness all around you while expected to be on your best behavior, work well with others and absorb challenging concepts and information? Well, our students have. They go to school in buildings without working air conditioners. You said you think we should invest in individual students and not in school buildings. Yet when you invest in school building conditions you DO invest in individual students. Is the building you work in air conditioned? Does the heat work? Is it comfortable? Have you ever had to go to school hungry because your busy, working parent left your breakfast home or because you simply don’t come from a home that feeds you enough? Have you ever tried to do your best on an empty stomach? Thousands of students go through this everyday and they each individually can not do their best, yet you said you don’t believe in “free lunch.” Here comes part two of that question, have you ever had a child come up to you and ask if you had any food because they were so hungry they couldn’t stand up? I have. Most teachers have. If you wouldn’t reach into your pocket and pull out a few dollars or a granola bar you have no soul. Investing in school lunch programs IS investing in students! Have you ever actually had to plan and devise a well crafted seven page lesson plan and then

successfully carry it out in front of your administrators and close to 40 students right at the end of the day? Do you go to bed every night reflecting on how to reach that one quiet child or the child who is disruptive or who doesn’t have the same learning style as most? I imagine you have never even fostered a relationship with an individual student that is not your own child, that is meaningful enough to actually have you up in the middle of the night trying to figure out how to get through to them. Have you ever taught a class that has four different assignments going on at the same time to accommodate different learning profiles? I saw your post about how you think modern education is made up of lectures and kids sitting in rows. If you ever had to do modern professional development or study current education trends, you would know that our public education system is the exact opposite of what you posted. Have you ever sat in a building without heat or with too much heat due to broken radiators? Have you ever had to focus and learn in a class of 37 students all needing individual attention? Have you ever had to learn from an outdated source of material because you couldn’t afford a new textbook or a cell phone, tablet, computer or data plan to research at school or at home? Have you ever not had a quiet and comfortable place to get things done? Have you ever worked or learned in a place where none of the teachers look like you, reflect your ethnicity or your culture and don’t understand your individuality? Have you ever eaten a school lunch before or drank a school juice from a plastic bag? Have you ever had to tell a cafeteria

worker that your family didn’t have the money for your lunch? Have you ever not wanted to eat even though you were hungry because if you got up to get your free cheese sandwich the other students would know you don’t have money? Oh wait, you’ve never even visited a school where these things happen. Have you ever had to live off and support children with $38,000 a year before taxes and insurance, etc? Have you ever been told that the $4,000 raise you waited four years just to be eligible to possibly earn was actually NOT going to be rewarded to you? Have you ever been coerced into working 12-15 hour days for free just because you care? Ever needed a second or third job? Ever felt like you just can’t possibly give your all to your students because you’re so tired from working two jobs and being a single mom? Have you ever had to wonder, “would I take bullets and die for other people’s children and leave my own child parentless?”, when was this not ever something you should have been asked to do? Have you ever had to be a mental health counselor, tutor, referee, nurse, police officer, babysitter, etc. all in the same moment to over 100 kids? (Teaching is constant educational triage, tending to the most important thing at the moment.) Have you ever not been able to afford comfortable and professional clothing? Have you ever not been able to afford car payments to make it into work? Have you ever not been able to buy your own children a gift that they so desperately want? You say you want to invest in students, well when you invest in TEACHERS, then teachers can truly invest in STUDENTS. But when

teachers are burnt out, stressed, underpaid, disrespected, undervalued by policy makers, harassed by parents, and unable to live quality lives they can not possibly invest their energy into students the way they could if they were paid well, valued and respected. Have you ever dedicated your life to public service so you can’t afford to pay all of your loans so, you rely on government loan forgiveness programs in order to serve your country? No, because you are so independently wealthy that you would never even be able to imagine what this is like. Last but not least, have you ever had a brilliant student who is an all around incredible person who just doesn’t test well, and so their confidence is shot down so much by the constant testing that it starts to bleed into their everyday lives and well-being? Have you seen them fall slowly into depression despite their beauty and talent? Have you ever been the person to try to help them combat that? Do you even know the struggles that our most needy children and most dedicated teachers face? No, you’ve never even visited them. Betsy DeVos, you are a disgrace to our country, our education system, and our children. May God have mercy on you and on us all. Moreover, may all the citizens of the USA vote you and your out of touch colleagues out of office as soon as possible.

Click Below To Watch Betsy DeVos Was A Disgrace On “60 Minutes” But It Doesn’t Matter Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos struggles to answer fairly basic questions on school performance on 60 Minutes

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New Medicare Cards Are Coming Dear Marci, I’ve heard that there are going to be new Medicare cards. How do I get mine and what should I do with it? Anita (Fairbanks, AK) Dear Anita, New Medicare cards will soon be on their way. If you are already enrolled in Medicare, you will receive your new card sometime between April 2018 and April 2019, based on where you live. As long as your address with Social Security is up-todate, there is nothing you have to do to receive your new Medicare card. If your mailing address is not up-to-date, call 800-7721213, visit, or go to a local Social Security office to update it. You do not have to pay anything for your new card. Medicare beneficiaries are getting a new card because the old Medicare cards contain a Medicare number typically based on their Social Security number (SSN). Recent legislation requires the removal of the Social Security number from Medicare cards. This is intended to address the risk of identity theft that might result from Medicare cards containing

people’s Social Security numbers. Beginning this year, the Medicare number based on your Social Security number is being replaced with a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The new number is made up of 11 uppercase letters and numbers. The MBI is unique, randomly generated, and the characters will be nonintelligent, which means they do not have any hidden or special meaning. The new Medicare numbers and cards will not change Medicare benefits at all. Once you get your new card, you should keep it safe, as you would with credit cards and other insurance cards. You should bring your new card with you when you visit your health care providers. As soon as you have your new card, your providers will be able to use it to bill Medicare on your behalf. There will be a transition period, from April 2018 to December 2019, during which providers will be able to bill Medicare using either the old or new Medicare numbers and cards. Starting in January 2020, though, providers

will only be able to use the new Medicare number for most claims. To prevent any delay in receiving services or having them paid for, you should bring your Medicare card to your provider right away. Once you have your new card, you should safely and securely destroy your old card. There are some concerns about scams that take advantage of people who are confused about the transition to new Medicare cards. Here are some important things to keep in mind:  Social Security and Medicare already have your personal identifying information. This means that unless you ask them to, they will never call, email, or visit you. They will not ask for your Medicare number or other personal information to send you a new card.  There is no charge for your new card, so no one should contact you requesting payment.  You should continue to check your Medicare

Summary Notice (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB) and billing statements regularly and carefully, and to look out for any suspicious charges. Use a calendar to track your doctors’ appointments and services to be able to quickly spot fraud or billing mistakes. If anyone contacts you requesting personal information or payment related to the new card, you should call 1-800MEDICARE to report the activity. You can also contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). To contact your SMP, call 877-808-2468 or visit If, in reviewing your MSN, EOB, or billing statement, you find a suspicious charge, contact your provider’s office to check if there has been a billing error. If you are unable to solve the issue through speaking with your provider’s office, you should contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for assistance. To contact your SHIP, visit or call 877-839-2675. -Marci

Report: Alzheimer’s Disease Will Cost U.S. $277B in 2018 For the second consecutive year, total payments to care for people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are predicted to exceed a quarter of a trillion dollars, according to the Alzheimer's Association's 2018 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report released Tuesday. The projected $277 billion total is an increase of almost $20 billion from last year. By 2050, costs are expected to surpass $1 trillion. The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is increasing every year.

According to the report, an estimated 5.7 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's, and someone develops the disease every 65 seconds. By 2050, an estimated 14 million people will be diagnosed. These rapidly increasing numbers make the disease, which has no cure, one of the most expensive in the country. However, the report hypothesizes that early identification of the disease during the mild cognitive impairment stage could save the nation as much as $7.9 trillion over the lifetimes of those living with it.

"Soaring prevalence, rising mortality rates and lack of an effective treatment all lead to enormous costs to society. Alzheimer's is a burden that's only going to get worse," said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association. "We must continue to attack Alzheimer's through a multidimensional approach that advances research while also improving support for people with the disease and their caregivers." Early diagnosis can also benefit patients' caregivers and family members. In 2017, 16.1

million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, according to the report. These caregivers provided an estimated 18.4 billion hours of care valued at more than $232 billion. Additionally, the stress associated with providing care to these patients resulted in an estimated $11.4 billion in added healthcare costs for their caregivers….Read More

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RI ARA HealthLink Wellness News


Paying Hospitals To Keep People Out Of Hospitals? It Works In Maryland Saturdays at Mercy Medical Center used to be perversely lucrative. The dialysis clinic across the street was closed on weekends. That meant the downtown Baltimore hospital would see patients with failing kidneys who should have gone to the dialysis center. So Mercy admitted them, collecting as much as $30,000 for treatment that typically costs hundreds of dollars. “That’s how the system worked,” said Mercy CEO Thomas Mullen. Instead of

finding less expensive alternatives, he said, “our financial people were saying, ‘We need to admit them.’” Maryland’s ambitious hospital-payment overhaul, put in place in 2014, has changed such crass calculations, which are still business as usual for most of American health care. A modification of a long-standing state regulation that would be hard to replicate elsewhere, the system is nevertheless attracting national attention, analysts say. As soon as Mercy started being penalized rather than rewarded for such avoidable admissions, it persuaded the

dialysis facility to open on weekends, saving government insurance programs and other payers close to $1 million annually. In the four years since Maryland implemented a statewide system of pushing hospitals to lower admissions, such savings are adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars for the taxpayers, employers and others who ultimately pay the bills, a new report shows. Maryland essentially pays hospitals to keep people out of the hospital. Analysts often describe the change as the most far-reaching attempt in the

nation to control the medical costs driving up insurance premiums and government spending. Like a giant health maintenance organization, the state caps hospitals’ revenue each year, letting them keep the difference if they reduce inpatient and outpatient treatment while maintaining care quality. Such “global budgets,” which have attracted rare, bipartisan support during a time of rancor over health care, are supposed to make hospitals work harder to keep patients healthy outside their walls….Read More

Adults Skipping Vaccines May Miss Out On Effective New Shingles Shot Federal officials have recommended a new vaccine that is more effective than an earlier version at protecting older adults against the painful rash called shingles. But persuading many adults to get this and other recommended vaccines continues to be an uphill battle, physicians and vaccine experts say. “I’m healthy, I’ll get that when I’m older,” is what adult patients often tell Dr. Michael Munger when he brings up an annual flu shot or a tetanusdiphtheria booster or the new shingles vaccine. Sometimes they put him off by questioning

a vaccine’s effectiveness. “This is not the case with childhood vaccines,” said Munger, a family physicianin Over land Par k, Kan., who is president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “As parents, we want to make sure our kids are protected. But as adults, we act as if we’re invincible.” The new schedule for adult vaccines for people age 19 and older was published in February following a recommendation last October by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization

Practices and subsequent approval by the director of the CDC. The most significant change was to recommend the shingles vaccine that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last fall, over an older version of the vaccine. The new vaccine, Shingrix, should be given in two doses between two and six months apart to adults who are at least 50 years old. The older vaccine, Zostavax, can still be given to adults who are 60 or older, but Shingrix is preferred, according to the CDC. In clinical trials, Shingrix was 96.6 percent

effective in adults ages 50 to 59, while Zostavax was 70 percent effective. The differences were even more marked with age: Effectiveness in adults 70 and older was 91.3 percent for Shingrix, compared with 38 percent for Zostavax. Shingrix also provided longer-lasting protection than Zostavax, whose effectiveness waned after the first year….Read More

7 Heart Healthy Shopping Tips for Seniors One of the best ways to prevent or control cardiovascular disease is by eating a healthy diet. Use A Place for Mom’s heart healthy shopping list and incorporate these nutrition tips into a senior loved one’s diet for greater heart health.

Heart Healthy Shopping Tips for Seniors Eating better is one of the Heart Association’s “Simple 7” factors for improved heart health. When you maintain a healthy diet along with regular physical exercise and other good habits, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll live longer — and of course we want our senior

loved ones to stay healthy and vital for as long as possible, too. Here are some tips on what to eat, what not to eat, and how to succeed when the going gets tough. 1. Buy colorful fruits and vegetables. 2. Avoid buying high fat dairy or meat. 3. Buy plenty of nuts and high

fiber foods. 4. Avoid buying butter. 5. Read nutrition labels. 6. Consider frozen or canned fruits and veggies. 7. Avoid rushing into major changes. Click here to read more on each of the 7 tips for a healthy heart.

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The High Costs of Alzheimer's Sharp increases in Alzheimer's disease cases, deaths and costs are stressing the U.S. health care system and caregivers, a new report reveals. About 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease -- 5.5 million of them aged 65 and older. By 2025, the number of seniors with Alzheimer's could reach 7.1 million, up nearly 29 percent. And, if no new treatments are found, that number could hit 13.8 million by 2050, according to the new report on Alzheimer's disease facts and figures, published online March 20 by the Alzheimer's Association. Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's disease. By 2050,

that will occur every 33 seconds, the experts said. While deaths from other major causes continue to decline, Alzheimer's deaths have more than doubled, rising 123 percent between 2000 and 2015. By comparison, the number of deaths from heart disease -- the leading cause of death in the United States -- fell 11 percent. "This year's report illuminates the growing cost and impact of Alzheimer's on the nation's health care system, and also points to the growing financial, physical and emotional toll on families facing this disease," said Keith Fargo. He directs scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association. "Soaring prevalence, rising mortality rates and lack of an effective treatment all lead to enormous costs to society.

Alzheimer's is a burden that's only going to get worse," he said in an association news release. The estimated cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer's and other dementias is $277 billion this year -- and that doesn't include unpaid caregiving. Of that amount, $186 billion is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid, and $60 billion is for out-of-pocket costs, the report found. This is expected to be the second year in a row that total costs have exceeded a quarter of a trillion dollars, the authors warned. Total costs of care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias could top $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2018 dollars), according to the report. The report authors noted that family caregivers play a major

role in looking after Alzheimer's patients, and face significant threats to their physical, emotional and financial wellbeing. Nearly half of all caregivers who help older adults are caring for someone with Alzheimer's or another dementia. Last year, the lifetime cost of care for a person with Alzheimer's stood at $329,360. Families bear 70 percent of that cost through out-of-pocket expenses and the value of unpaid care. In 2017, more than 16 million Americans provided about 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care to Alzheimer's patients, worth $232 billion. And that takes a toll on caregivers, to the tune of $11.4 billion in added health care costs last year, according to the report. ....Read More

Medical Marijuana for Older Adults Back when baby boomers were in high school or college, marijuana was mostly about youthful experimentation. Now, medical marijuana gives cannabis new meaning for some older adults. In a growing number of states, people can use marijuana products to treat conditions such as chemotherapy side effects or certain types of pain. Fibromyalgia has been a source of pain and disruption for Teri Robnett, 59, of Colorado. For 30 years, she's coped with fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and irritable bowel issues. Over the years, she's tried almost every treatment that traditional medicine has to offer, from ibuprofen to prescribed antidepressants and opioid painkillers like OxyContin. None really helped. Instead, alternative measures such as massage, acupuncture and herbal medicines provided some relief. In 2009, Robnett began

working in a marijuana dispensary. Although she had tried marijuana while much younger, she could take it or leave it for recreational use. Now, as she saw others turning to medical marijuana for conditions like hers, she received authorization to try it herself. "I feel so much better," was her almost immediate reaction. As early as the 1970s, marijuana was considered as a possible therapy for glaucoma, a common eye disease related to aging. However, it's not practical as a glaucoma treatment, accor ding to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Pain treatment is the most promising medical use for marijuana supported by data so far, says Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City who conducts cannabis research.

"There really is evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids, including synthetic cannabinoids, reduce pain," Haney says. "What's very exciting is there's some suggestion that cannabinoids can be useful for a type of pain that isn't well-treated by other drugs – neuropathic pain." Neuropathic pain is caused by nerve damage, also known as neuropathy. Neuropathy can occur with diabetes, HIV infection or medications, and cancer chemotherapy. Marinol capsules and Syndros oral solution, which contain synthetic cannabis, or dronabinol, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Cesamet, also approved, contains nabilone, another synthetic form. Marijuana could also be helpful for other older adults

with poor appetite and nausea who are at risk for unwanted weight loss and malnutrition. "If [marijuana] is legal in your state, it's certainly reasonable to try it for appetite," Haney says. "Just be cautious, and particularly cautious with edibles, because they really are hard to titrate to the effect you want." Medical Marijuana Uncertainties Epidiolex, a cannabidiolbased prescription drug, is under review for FDA approval. Studies suggest the drug reduces seizures in two forms of epilepsy. Anxiety relief is one reason people turn to marijuana, although that can backfire. While marijuana is relaxing and enjoyable for a subset of users, Haney says, "Many others find it enhances anxiety tremendously."...Read More

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RI ARA March 25, 2018 E-Newsletter


RI ARA March 25, 2018 E-Newsletter

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