Follow-Up Exam: Back-To-School On Aging Wisdom

As Americans get older, it helps to tickle the ol’ noggin with trivia. Take this pop quiz to see what you have learned as a regular reader of KHN’s coverage of aging issues. (Click on the blue button, below.)

KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

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1

What’s the No. 1 complaint that long-term care ombudsmen receive about assisted living facilities?

— Surprisingly, getting evicted from an assisted living facility is not unusual.

2

What are possible signs of sepsis?

— Other possible symptoms of sepsis: a change in mental status, such as confusion, or an extreme drop in blood pressure, which could indicate septic shock.

3

A Kaiser Health News investigation into fluctuating staffing levels at the nation’s nursing homes relied on new federal data that tracks …

— The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is not known for linguistic playfulness. Nonetheless, at least one person there must have been chuckling when it named its rich new data source for nursing home staffing levels the Payroll-Based Journal, or PBJ.

4

As Americans live longer, caregivers are also growing older. What share of adults 70 and up are caring for elderly parents?

— A new analysis from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that 12 percent of adults age 70 and older whose parents are alive serve as caregivers.

5

Based on Medicare payments, tests for vitamin D deficiency rank fifth among common lab tests for seniors. What’s No. 1?

— A TSH test determines whether the thyroid gland is working the way it should. It can tell if it’s overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) or detect a thyroid disorder before any symptoms develop.

6

OK, we know you read the story on earwax. True or false: Earwax buildup occurs more often in babies than in seniors.

— When earwax buildup goes unrecognized, it can pose serious problems, especially for the 2.2 million people who live in U.S. nursing homes and assisted living centers.

7

Most patients who undergo the minimally invasive heart procedure known as TAVR — transcatheter aortic valve replacement — are 65 and over. Others tend not to have it done because the procedure:

— Access to the procedure is historically uneven, particularly for minorities and people in rural areas.

8

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease differs from the late-onset form in that:

— Still, there is much to be learned about all forms of dementia.

9

True or false: Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

— Most people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia live at home — an estimated 70 percent.

10

Medicare open-enrollment season begins:

— Make a mental note of it, if you can.

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Follow-Up Exam: Back-To-School On Aging Wisdom

You Answered out of 10 Questions Correctly.

Question

Correct Response

1

What’s the No. 1 complaint that long-term care ombudsmen receive about assisted living facilities?

— Surprisingly, getting evicted from an assisted living facility is not unusual.

Nationwide, evictions top the list of grievances. In 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, 2,867 complaints of this kind were recorded — a number that experts believe is almost surely an undercount.

2

What are possible signs of sepsis?

— Other possible symptoms of sepsis: a change in mental status, such as confusion, or an extreme drop in blood pressure, which could indicate septic shock.

Sepsis occurs as the body tries to fight off an infection, like pneumonia or because of an open bedsore wound. The body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to battle the invading germs.

3

A Kaiser Health News investigation into fluctuating staffing levels at the nation’s nursing homes relied on new federal data that tracks …

— The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is not known for linguistic playfulness. Nonetheless, at least one person there must have been chuckling when it named its rich new data source for nursing home staffing levels the Payroll-Based Journal, or PBJ.

Medicare only recently began collecting and publishing payroll data, known as the Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ), on the staffing of nursing homes as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, rather than relying as it had before on nursing homes’ own unverified reports.

4

As Americans live longer, caregivers are also growing older. What share of adults 70 and up are caring for elderly parents?

— A new analysis from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that 12 percent of adults age 70 and older whose parents are alive serve as caregivers.

About 17 percent of adult children care for their parents at some point in their lives, and the likelihood of doing so rises with age, reports a new analysis from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Among adults ages 60 to 69 whose parents are alive, 10 percent serve as caregivers.

5

Based on Medicare payments, tests for vitamin D deficiency rank fifth among common lab tests for seniors. What’s No. 1?

— A TSH test determines whether the thyroid gland is working the way it should. It can tell if it’s overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) or detect a thyroid disorder before any symptoms develop.

Despite the rush to test and treat alleged vitamin D deficiencies, there’s no clear evidence that people with higher levels of the nutrient are any healthier than those with lower levels.

6

OK, we know you read the story on earwax. True or false: Earwax buildup occurs more often in babies than in seniors.

— When earwax buildup goes unrecognized, it can pose serious problems, especially for the 2.2 million people who live in U.S. nursing homes and assisted living centers.

Earwax — not really wax, but a substance called cerumen that binds with dirt, dust and debris — is produced by the body to clean and protect the ears. In about 10 percent of young children, 20 percent of adults and more than 30 percent of elderly and developmentally disabled people, the wax collects to the point of “impaction,” blocking the ear canal.

7

Most patients who undergo the minimally invasive heart procedure known as TAVR — transcatheter aortic valve replacement — are 65 and over. Others tend not to have it done because the procedure:

— Access to the procedure is historically uneven, particularly for minorities and people in rural areas.

TAVR has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people who cannot have open-heart surgery or for whom it would be risky. These include older and frail people, and others with complications such as kidney and lung disease. But TAVR use has expanded among younger, and less sick, patients in recent years. Within the next year, the FDA is likely to approve the procedure for all patients needing a new aortic valve, industry analysts predict.

8

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease differs from the late-onset form in that:

— Still, there is much to be learned about all forms of dementia.

According to the National Institute on Aging, early-onset Alzheimer's disease emerges between a person's 30s to mid-60s and represents fewer than 10 percent of all people with Alzheimer's. Some cases are caused by an inherited change in one of three genes, resulting in a type known as early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease. In other cases, research suggests there may be a genetic component related to factors other than these three genes, but there is still much unknown. Read about one man’s journey here.

9

True or false: Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

— Most people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia live at home — an estimated 70 percent.

Despite the fact most Alzheimer's patients live at home, few professionals inquire about patients’ living conditions, even though these environments play a major role in shaping people’s safety and well-being.

10

Medicare open-enrollment season begins:

— Make a mental note of it, if you can.

And just so there are no gaps in understanding, KHN “Navigating Aging” columnist Judith Graham offers a primer on Medigap coverage to help in your decision-making. Click here.

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