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Some Practical Health Information

Posted Aug 27 2012 8:30am

category_bug_journal2.gif Useful information arrives and sometimes it appears to be so obvious or has been so widely distributed in the media that it would be redundant for me to tell you about it. But maybe not; maybe some readers want or need to know this stuff.

So instead of one at a time, I've collected several items together in today's post about this year's flu shots, swift delivery of OTC drugs, boomers and Hep C, a new kind of colonoscopy and an extremely useful new nursing home database.

Influenza can be deadly for elders. Did you know that 90 percent of flu-related deaths and 60 percent of flu-related hospital stays occur in people 65 and older?

We are more vulnerable than younger people to the flu and to its complications because our immune systems are old and creaky. With that in mind, a special flu shot has been developed for us. In addition to the traditional one, there is a higher dose shot that addresses the immune system deficiency in elders by triggering the body to produce more antibodies.

Which dosage you take is your choice but flu shot season is here now and they are easily available. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has an informative FAQ online titled Flu + You [pdf] for more information.

A friend emailed to say:

You and your readers no doubt will find this advice superfluous, but Walmart is terrific for OTC drugs and vitamins, both in prices and low shipping costs. And unbelievably fast. I placed an order online yesterday and got it via FedEx Ground today.

Some people have a variety of political reasons to not shop Walmart and I have a great deal of sympathy with that point of view. But many times, low income trumps high-minded politics.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a recommendation that all boomers get a one-time blood test for the hepatitis-C virus (HCV).

”People born from 1945 through 1965 currently account for 75 percent of adults infected with hepatitis C in the U.S...

“Each year, more than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die from hepatitis C-related illness such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.”

Over the past decade, the number of deaths has been steadily increasing. However, there is good news too:

”New treatments are now available that can cure up to 75 percent of infections, and even more promising treatments are expected in the future.”

So arrange for the blood test with your physician – and it wouldn't hurt to have it done if you, like me, are a few years older than the boomers or a few years younger. You can read the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) letter about this here [pdf].

Everyone dreads having a colonoscopy or, more likely, hates the preparation for one – all those liters foul-tasting laxative. Now, the Mayo Clinic in Arizona has developed a new protocol that involves, instead, a cleansing agent of only four pills:

The new procedure is a virtual colonoscopy wherein the tiny camera inserted into the body is replaced with a "CT colonography" that provides three-dimensional imaging of the colon and rectum. Here is radiologist Dr. C. Daniel Johnson, who developed the new protocol, explaining it:

The Mayo Clinic has found the CT colonography to be

"...highly accurate for detection of intermediate (6-9 millimeters) and large (greater than 1 centimeter) polyps. Because the majority of patients will not have a polyp, no further workup is necessary.

"Only the 12 percent of patients identified with a polyp during a colonography would then need to have a colonoscopy."

You can read more about all this at the Mayo Clinic website .

Earlier this month, ProPublica launched its Nursing Home Inspect "app" – an online tool

"...that allows anyone to easily search and analyze the details of recent nursing home inspections, most completed since January 2011. "As of today, that includes nearly 118,000 deficiencies cited against 14,565 homes, but we will add more each month as new reports become available."

The reports were posted online in July by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but were difficult to search. ProPublica's tool allows users to search all inspection reports at once and to sort the information in a variety of ways including state, city, nursing home names, type of deficiency and keywords.

The actual reports of the CMS inspectors are posted along with assigned grades for homes depending on severity of deficiencies. And, you can read the actual reports from CMS inspectors.

Most of the inspection reports date from January 2011, and will be updated monthly as those CMS reports become available. Here are the links you need to find out more and use this tool:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: My Friend, Margaret

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