Health Costs Rise

MAY 2, 1994 VOLUME 1, NUMBER 23

The average older American will spend $2,803 out-of-pocket on health costs this year, according to a study by the American Association of Retired Persons and the Urban Institute. That amounts to 23 percent of the income of the same “average” elder.

In 1987, a similar study found that the health care bill was half the current figure, and it amounted to only 17 percent of income of the elderly. Out-of-pocket expenses include Medicare co-payments, drugs and insurance premiums.

For those under 65, health care costs are dramatically lower. Younger Americans spend an average of $679 a year, which is 8 percent of income.

The elderly use far more medical services. They go to the doctor twice as much, are hospitalized three times as much and purchase four times as many prescription drugs, according to the study.

More Elderly Arizonans

According to new Census Bureau projections, Arizona should become one of the “oldest” states in the country by 2020. Only Florida is expected to have a higher percentage of over-65 residents.

13% of Arizona’s population is now over age 65, which places the state 18th in the nation. The number of elderly Arizonans is expected to double in the next 25 years, which will mean that 20% of the population is over 65.

The same projections suggest that Arizona will become more ethnic in the next quarter-century. Asian, Indian and Hispanic populations are expected to grow faster than the rest of the state. Arizona should have the largest Indian population in the country by the end of this century.

Alzheimer’s Research

A new study suggests that the protein long known to be present in advanced Alzheimer’s patients may cause memory loss very early in the disease progression. The study, published in Sciencemagazine last month, shows that tiny amounts of the protein, beta amyloid, can interfere with potassium use in healthy cells. The results suggest that calcium is not the major culprit that it was thought to be.

Alzheimer’s is thought to affect as many as 4 million Americans. !00,000 deaths are attributed to the disease each year.

Racism and Dementia

From Wall Street Journal, 4/29/94

“The average nursing home combines mostly elderly white patients raised long before the civil rights movement and a staff of many nonwhites and immigrants. A New York nursing home is trying to protect those caregivers from the disturbing racist behavior of some Alzheimer’s patients.

At a recent weekly support meeting at the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, whose staff is 73% nonwhite, nurses and nurses’ aides wondered aloud at how some befuddled patients can lucidly fall back on racial attitudes from the Depression. ‘There are memories that are riveted to the things of the past. They will remember their parents’ names…and that you are a nigger,’ says a nurse from Jamaica. The problem is particularly troublesome because the nurses’ 50 patients are in the early stages of dementia and sometimes seem to be responsible for their outbursts, says social worker Robin Bouru.

Despite the offensive incidents, the staffers have high morale and say they often develop close relationships with their patients. Training coordinator Myra Bryce Richardson advises the nurses to overcome the urge to retaliate by seeing the verbal attacks as symptoms of illness, not character. Preliminary results of a study at 15 New York-area nursing homes suggest that regular in-service training makes nurses less likely to take it personally, reducing stress on the job.

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