Texas Hurricane Again Highlights How Natural Disasters Impact Older Residents

you can read all my blog posts at http://www.generationsofnewyork.com

The shocking pictures from Houston of seniors in wheelchairs sitting in flood water in a nursing home illustrated again how difficult it is for older persons when a natural disaster strikes.  Obviously, nursing home residents are totally dependent on staff and others to help them and fortunately, all of those in the Houston nursing home were moved out.  Imagine though the tremendous personal stress of re-location.

In addition to those who are in nursing homes, many older residents living in their own homes also had to struggle to be rescued and there were many pictures of older residents being airlifted.  Of course, children and all residents were in danger but the limited physical mobility of persons of any age with chronic illness endangered them in this situation which overwhelmed and surprised the City of Houston and the surrounding area.

Of course, New Yorkers are familiar with the natural disaster of Hurricane Sandy which left many New York City seniors in high rises without power and also some nursing home residents had to be re-located.  As always, when tragedy and disaster strike it is the incredible heroics of first responders and community services staff who save the day for many people.  I remember hearing about how workers for senior organizations delivered meals by walking up steps in high rises because the elevators weren’t working.

Isn’t it ironic how these tragedies have at least for the time being brought people closer together in these divisive times?  Neighbors help each other regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual identity or political belief.    Maybe the  generosity of spirit we have been seeing can be a lesson that will soften the divisive political climate.

Projected 2.2% Increase in Social Security Benefits for 2018 Will Effect Medicare Part B Premiums in Many Ways

In June, the Social Security Administration projected that inflation would rise by 2.2% in 2017 and that increase would be applied to benefits in January.  This cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase is very modest but will be welcome coming after two years of almost no increase.   Beneficiaries received only a 3/10% this year.  In 2016, the increase was zero.  The COLA increase has been below 2% since 2011 when it was 3.6%.    Forty years ago during a hyper inflationary period, the increases were 9.9% in 1979, 14.3% in 1980 and 11.2% in 1981.  Those increases led to a crisis in the program with funds about to run short in 1982.  It was then that a famous commission including many top political leaders came up with changes that included raising the retirement age, raising the tax rate and other changes.

Here is a link to a chart of all the yearly increases since Congress enacted the COLA provisions in the 1970s.  https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/colaseries.html

Strangely, the COLA increase of 2.2% will lead to a scrambling of Medicare Part B premium increases.   A provision in the law does not allow Medicare premium increases to exceed the Social Security COLA so that benefits are not reduced.  So, most beneficiaries did not see an increase in their Part B premium this year or last.  This hold harmless provision though led to some beneficiaries who were not protected having to pay a much higher Medicare Part B premium since the required increase was spread over fewer people.

Many more beneficiaries will see a Medicare premium increase in 2018 because their Social Security benefits are going up with the COLA.    The Medicare premium increase will be spread over more people and those who didn’t pay any more last year and now pay an average of $109/month will see their rates jump while those who paid a lot more this year with a maximum of $134/month could actually see their premiums go down.

The Social Security Administration will officially announce all these changes  in October.

Current estimates by the Social Security Trustees are that the program still has funds until 2034 to pay full benefits.  After all, the Trust Fund would have to pay less than full benefits without changes.

Doctors Recording Visits with Patients Who Can Review Them on Internet

The New York Times runs its “The New Old Age” column by Paula Span in the Science Section on Tuesdays.    This week’s column discusses how a doctor in Michigan is using the internet to post a recorded version of his visits with patients who can then refer back to them.    Many older persons are often wanting to remember what a doctor said about their condition or about taking medication.  If they are having trouble remembering the visits, having access to the internet site is helpful in following doctor’s recommendations.

The Michigan doctor, James Ryan, said only four patients of 500 asked declined to have the visits recorded.  The other advantage to the recordings is that family members and caregivers can also have access and review the visit.

Some doctors are concerned though about whether such recordings could be used if there was ever a legal issue.

Heroes Who Defended Health Care: Citizen Activists along with Collins, Murkowski and McCain

you can read all my blog posts at http://www.generationsofnewyork.com

There was a public debate a few years ago about who was more responsible for the civil rights legislation enacted in the 1960s.  Some said it would not have happened without President Lyndon B. Johnson’s legislative skills and presidential advocacy.  Others noted that the marches, sit-ins, freedom rides and people in the streets led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others demanded the legislation and it was their nonviolent, direct action that made it possible for the laws that were passed.

Obviously, it took both protest marches as well as key Presidential leadership to pass those laws.  My view is that the massive marches made the difference because no legislators or Presidents including Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman had succeeded much in ending the Jim Crow segregation.

Much credit was given last week to Senator John McCain for his dramatic action to provide the decisive vote to defeat the “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act.   Obviously, he followed his conscience and said his vote was “the right thing to do.”  Two other Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine had stood steadfast against any bills that would take away health care from large numbers of people.  Susan Collins is Chair of the Aging Committee and has a special concern regarding health care and older persons.

I admire Susan Collins and I have for over forty years because she was my college classmate at St. Lawrence University in the 1970s.  We were both government majors.  Back then, she was the model student who was smart and won academic awards at graduation.   She was well liked by students and faculty.She was a very nice person who was even tempered like she has been in the US Senate.    She displayed her rational approach in her advocacy on the health legislation.

While these Senators made a decisive difference, I have commented before on the importance of the many patient, consumer, health, senior and disability advocates and their organizations who rallied and lobbied to preserve the Affordable Care Act.  Their staunch opposition helped to frighten, educate, and shame many members of the Republican majority.  In the end, the repeal almost passed.  I have no doubt that if they had done so, that our army of activists would rally and battle again until health care coverage for all Americans was restored.

Michael Burgess

Number of Arrests Rising of Older Persons with Dementia

You can read all my blog posts at http://www.generationsofnewyork.com
The New York Times ran a story in the Science section on July 25 (that section usually includes a column on aging) about the increased number of older people with dementia who get arrested because they take aggressive and even physical actions against others in assisted living or other settings.  There was even mention of a person with dementia who was shot for refusing to put down an item being carried, that turned out to be a crucifix.
Readers of this blog know that I reported on an unfortunate incident with an Albany woman with dementia who was arrested and was in the Albany County jail for over two months even though an evaluation determined she had dementia.
The Times article noted that many police departments that are progressive and community minded are now promoting police training in some of the problems of geriatrics and dementia.  The police officers were happy to get the training because they didn’t know how to deal with some of these incidents reported to them.
This is a very concrete recommendation that would be very age-friendly for every community and it would be a tangible action that could be recommended to local municipalities.
Here is the link to the NY Times article.  You may need a subscription to view it.

“Add Arrest to the Indignities of Aging”