Tagged: elderly

Germany “exporting” old and sick to eastern Europe and Asia


German pensioners in Berlin

Growing numbers of elderly and sick Germans are being sent overseas for long-term care in retirement and rehabilitation centres because of rising costs and falling standards in Germany.

The move, which has seen thousands of retired Germans rehoused in homes in eastern Europe and Asia, has been severely criticised by social welfare organisations who have called it “inhumane deportation”.

But with increasing numbers of Germans unable to afford the growing costs of retirement homes, and an ageing and shrinking population, the number expected to be sent abroad in the next few years is only likely to rise. Experts describe it as a “time bomb”.

Germany’s chronic care crisis – the care industry suffers from lack of workers and soaring costs – has for years been mitigated by eastern Europeans migrating to Germany in growing numbers to care for the country’s elderly.

But the transfer of old people to eastern Europe is being seen as a new and desperate departure, indicating that even with imported, cheaper workers, the system is unworkable…

Researchers found an estimated 7,146 German pensioners living in retirement homes in Hungary in 2011. More than 3,000 had been sent to homes in the Czech Republic, and there were more than 600 in Slovakia. There are also unknown numbers in Spain, Greece and Ukraine. Thailand and the Philippines are also attracting increasing numbers.

According to Germany’s federal bureau of statistics, more than 400,000 senior citizens are currently unable to afford a German retirement home, a figure that is growing by around 5% a year.

The reasons are rising care home costs – which average between €2,900 and €3,400 (£2,700) a month, stagnating pensions, and the fact that people are more likely to need care as they get older.

With Germany’s population expected to shrink from almost 82 million to about 69 million by 2050, one in every 15 – about 4.7 million people – are expected to be in need of care, meaning the problem of provision is only likely to worsen.

German politicians have shied away from dealing with the subject, largely due to fears of a voter backlash if Germany’s state insurers are seen to be financing care workers abroad to the detriment of the domestic care industry.

There are about 47 different topics one can entertain for discussion here. For a sound, political decision, only 2 questions need to be addressed:

1. Standards must be devised that fit other culture, other systems. I presume the essentials already exist – so, there ain’t much to be worked out.

2. Moving to a facility abroad should only be voluntary – and the right of return within a reasonable time period must be absolute.

Everything else is up for keeping a couple thousand civil servants and social scientists employed in discussion.

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Japanese robot with 24 high-tech fingers washes hair


 
It may look like a glorified salon chair, but a new Japanese hair-washing robot replicates the dexterous touch of a human hand to care for the locks of the elderly and the infirm.

Its creators at electronics firm Panasonic say the machine features the latest robotic technology and could help replace human care-givers in this rapidly aging nation without degrading the quality of the service.

“Using robotic hand technology and 24 robotic fingers, this robot can wash the hair of handicapped in the way human hands do in order to help them have better daily lives,” said developer Tohru Nakamura.

The customer leans back in what looks like a regular salon chair, over a sink, and the machine…shampoos, massages the scalp and rinses in about three minutes. Conditioning and a blow-dry add another five minutes…

“We will develop more care-giving technologies for the elderly or handicapped in Japan and will export those technologies to other aging societies, such as South Korea and China, in the future,” Nakamura said.

One of our commenters at the Steve Jobs post mentioned Mr. Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic. Outside of the firm, outside of a small segment of the Japanese population, few know that he wrote a book before he died to guide the future of Panasonic after he was gone.

It included guidance for 1,000 years. I believe it included affordable appliances for an aging population.

Census Metric: Male geezers narrowing the old age gender gap

Women still outlive men, but the gender gap among U.S. seniors is narrowing.

New 2010 census figures, released Thursday, show men are narrowing the female population advantage, primarily in the 65-plus age group. It’s a change in the social dynamics of a country in which longevity, widowhood and health care for seniors often have been seen as issues more important to women.

In all, the numbers highlight a nation that is rapidly aging even as Congress debates cuts in Medicare, an issue with ramifications for the growing ranks of older men…

Over the past decade, the number of men in the U.S. increased by 9.9 percent, faster than the 9.5 percent growth rate for women. As a result, women outnumbered men by just 5.18 million, compared with 2000, when there were 5.3 million more women than men.

The male-female ratio in the U.S. also increased to 96.7 from 96.3 in 2000, reflecting the narrowing of the female advantage in overall population…There hasn’t been such a sustained resurgence in the U.S. male population since 1910, when medical advances started to increase women’s life expectancies by reducing deaths during pregnancy…

The latest census figures come amid a graying baby boomer demographic of 78 million people — now between the ages of 46 and 65 and looking ahead to retirement — who will have a major voice in the 2012 elections as federal spending and the spiraling costs of Medicare rise to the forefront.

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Little old lady cuts off web access to whole country of Armenia

An elderly Georgian woman was scavenging for copper to sell as scrap when she accidentally sliced through an underground cable and cut off internet services to all of neighbouring Armenia…

The woman, 75, had been digging for the metal not far from the capital Tbilisi when her spade damaged the fibre-optic cable on 28 March.

As Georgia provides 90% of Armenia’s internet, the woman’s unwitting sabotage had catastrophic consequences. Web users in the nation of 3.2 million people were left twiddling their thumbs for up to five hours as the country’s main internet providers – ArmenTel, FiberNet Communication and GNC-Alfa – were prevented from supplying their normal service. Television pictures showed reporters at a news agency in the capital Yerevan staring glumly at blank screens.

Large parts of Georgia and some areas of Azerbaijan were also affected…

Dubbed “the spade-hacker” by local media, the woman – who has not been named – is being investigated on suspicion of damaging property. She faces up to three years in prison if charged and convicted.

A spokesman for Georgia’s interior ministry said the woman was temporarily released “on account of her old age” but could face more questioning…

Pulling up unused copper cables for scrap is a common means of making money in the former Soviet Union. Some entrepreneurs have even used tractors to wrench out hundreds of metres of cable from the former nuclear testing ground at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan.

Yup. Let’s wander around a nuclear-testing site trying to find something worth scrounging.

Then, complain to the government a week later about glowing in the dark.

More than 230,000 Japanese centenarians ‘missing’

More than 230,000 elderly people in Japan who are listed as being aged 100 or over are unaccounted for, officials said following a nationwide inquiry.

An audit of family registries was launched last month after the remains of the man thought to be Tokyo’s oldest were found at his family home. Relatives are accused of fraudulently receiving his pension for decades.

Officials have found that hundreds of the missing would be at least 150 years old if still alive.

The Justice Ministry said some of those unaccounted for may have died as long ago as World War II, possibly during the post-war turmoil. Others may have emigrated without reporting their status to local authorities, or relatives simply did not report the deaths.

The inquiry followed the discovery of the mummified remains of Sogen Kato, who was thought to be the oldest man in Tokyo.

However, when officials went to congratulate him on his 111th birthday, they found his 30-year-old remains, raising concerns that the welfare system is being exploited by dishonest relatives.

Reports said he had received about $109,000 in pension payments since his wife’s death six years ago, and some of the money had been withdrawn.

Har!

Who knows? Maybe the whole concept of Japan leading the world in elderly citizens is the result of a welfare scam.

Fear of falling linked to future falls in the elderly

Elderly people who are very worried about falling are more likely to have a fall – even if they are in reasonable health and their physical risk of falling seems low, new research has found. In contrast, those with a higher physical risk, but who were unconcerned about falling, were actually less likely to fall…

Doctors have spent a lot of time looking at the physical factors that affect risk of falling – for example, people’s eyesight, balance, muscle strength, and the type of medication they take. But it’s been recognised for some time that fear of falling is closely associated with likelihood of having a fall.

What doctors didn’t know was whether fear of falling was simply a rational response to the person’s actual, physical risk. Also, if people were encouraged to be less fearful of falling, would that actually increase their risk of a fall, by allowing them to take more risks..?

About one third of the people in the study had either an overly optimistic or overly pessimistic view of their chances of having a fall, compared with their assessed physical risk.

The people who had a low physical risk, but were very fearful of falling, were much more likely to have a fall than the people with the same level of physical risk, but a low fear of falling.

Perhaps surprisingly, the people who had a high risk on the physical assessment, but who weren’t worried about falling, were much less likely to fall, compared with people with both a high risk and a high fear of falling.

The factors that seemed to increase people’s fear of falls were symptoms of depression, self-perceived poor health, a poorer quality of life, and symptoms of anxiety. People with a lower fear of falling were more likely to have an active lifestyle, less likely to take medicine that could affect their balance, had a higher quality of life, and rated their overall health as good…

However, we can’t be sure that it was simply fear that made the difference to people’s likelihood of falling. It could be that fear was related to something not measured in the study, which affected falls risk. The study doesn’t explain why fear of falling is linked to a higher risk of falling.

This article actually makes me smile. I had a strong fear of falling when I was a kid; but, ended up doing a fair bit of high altitude hill-walking and rough climbing. Reason and acquired skills overcame the fear. Mostly.

Now, at an advanced age and with a chronic condition or two that increases the risk of falling, I wouldn’t say I have a heightened fear of falling – but, I’m more aware of circumstances that might promote a fall.

Yes, I carry a cane – though I use it only a small percentage of the time. I find it useful to get me standing more erect when setting out for one of my dog walks along the fence line. I grabbed this article because I thought it may have moved forward to greater understanding of the phenomenon. At best, it’s confirmation. A start.

Student parks his butt in “silver seat”. 66-yr-old woman breaks his nose with her umbrella!

An elderly Japanese woman attacked a student and broke his nose after he refused to give her his seat on a bus.

Tamiko Masuta, 66, the manager of an apartment complex, was arrested after assaulting the teenager on a bus with her umbrella.

According to witnesses, she flew into a rage when the student did not stand up and offer her his place, designated as a “silver seat” for elderly passengers.

As well as striking him with an umbrella, the pensioner kicked the 18-year-old student and inflicted bruising as well as the broken nose…

The incident in Nagasaki is symptomatic of the widening chasm between the generations in Japan, with older people continuing to expect young people to show the respect that is traditional in Japanese society for the elderly. Young people often have a very different understanding of what constitutes manners in Japan.

That’s one way to put it. I see little difference from harassing the dolts who park in spaces reserved for handicapped drivers.

Smack him upside the head, lady. I’ll donate to the defense fund.

Robot companions

Nothing Eileen Oldaker tried could calm her mother when she called from the nursing home, disoriented and distressed in what was likely the early stages of dementia. So Ms. Oldaker hung up, dialed the nurses’ station and begged them to get Paro.

Paro is a robot modeled after a baby harp seal. It trills and paddles when petted, blinks when the lights go up, opens its eyes at loud noises and yelps when handled roughly or held upside down. Two microprocessors under its artificial white fur adjust its behavior based on information from dozens of hidden sensors that monitor sound, light, temperature and touch. It perks up at the sound of its name, praise and, over time, the words it hears frequently…

After years of effort to coax empathy from circuitry, devices designed to soothe, support and keep us company are venturing out of the laboratory. Paro, its name derived from the first sounds of the words “personal robot,” is one of a handful that take forms that are often odd, still primitive and yet, for at least some early users, strangely compelling…

But building a machine that fills the basic human need for companionship has proved more difficult. Even at its edgiest, artificial intelligence cannot hold up its side of a wide-ranging conversation or, say, tell by an expression when someone is about to cry. Still, the new devices take advantage of the innate soft spot many people have for objects that seem to care — or need someone to care for them.

Their appearances in nursing homes, schools and the occasional living room are adding fuel to science fiction fantasies of machines that people can relate to as well as rely on. And they are adding a personal dimension to a debate over what human responsibilities machines should, and should not, be allowed to undertake.

Ms. Oldaker, a part-time administrative assistant, said she was glad Paro could keep her mother company when she could not. In the months before Mrs. Lesek died in March, the robot became a fixture in the room even during her daughter’s own frequent visits…

“I’m the only one who can put him to sleep,” Mrs. Lesek would tell her daughter when the battery ran out.

He was very therapeutic for her, and for me too,” Ms. Oldaker said. “It was nice just to see her enjoying something.”

RTFA. This is just a touch of the discussion, considerations ranging from ethical to practical, including the absurdities required by lawyers and Libertarians.

I think anyone who’s experienced long-term companionship with a dog or cat will understand exactly where some of these designs are heading – and why. The usefulness of helping someone to be happy – especially in trying times – seems to me to be the easiest thing in the world to understand. Leave the rest for seminarians to discuss in some ivory tower.

Grayheads watch more TV than younger people – enjoy it less


ESPN plans on the World Cup starting the spin for 3D TV

We usually scold our children and teenagers for watching too much TV. It turns out that their grandmas and grandpas spend even more of their time watching TV, and it is not good for them either, according to researchers…

In a study published online in advance of publication…UCSD researchers examined television use in a large, nationally representative sample that was collected by the Center for Health and Well Being at Princeton University. Using an innovative, diary-like assessment strategy called the Day Reconstruction Method, study participants were asked to measure how they spent their time and describe their experience of everyday activities.

“We found that older people spent a great deal more time watching TV than younger people did, yet they enjoyed the experience less,” said first author Colin A. Depp, PhD…“What the study underscored is that alternatives to television as entertainment are needed, especially in older adults…”

The authors were surprised to find that older adults experienced TV watching as less enjoyable than younger people. “It is reasonable to expect that older adults may enjoy TV more than younger ones do, because they have fewer demands on their time. Prior studies also suggest they may use TV to regulate negative emotions,” said co-author Dilip V, Jeste, MD…

“Yet, our study indicates that older adults report lower levels of positive emotion while watching TV when compared to other activities – which is not the case in younger adults.”

The researchers concluded that increasing public awareness of alternatives to TV watching and reducing barriers to alternative activities that are more socially and physically engaging could reduce TV use in older people and diminish the potential for associated negative health effects.

I fit the profile for more TV watching since I retired. The extra is sports and movies.

Accessibility to movies has increased with the addition of high definition quality. My favorite sport – proper football – has three channels dedicated to the task on DirecTV with ESPN adding more every season.

I think I balance much of the viewing time with dedicated walking, tightly scheduled exercise. I try.

My first reaction to the article only concerned the paucity of content for a proper news junkie like me. Since CNN disappeared into the maw of Time-Warner, there is damned little of interest or accuracy or need to watch TV news. DirecTV and their peers still lack the courage to open viewership to worldly sources like BBC World or AlJazeera English.

Do I enjoy it less? Well, it pisses me off more. The content that is.

Hallucinations in hospital – a special risk to elderly


Justin Kaplan

No one who knows Justin Kaplan would ever have expected this. A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian with a razor intellect, Mr. Kaplan, 84, became profoundly delirious while hospitalized for pneumonia last year. For hours in the hospital, he said, he imagined despotic aliens, and he struck a nurse and threatened to kill his wife and daughter.

“Thousands of tiny little creatures,” he said, “some on horseback, waving arms, carrying weapons like some grand Renaissance battle,” were trying to turn people “into zombies.” Their leader was a woman “with no mouth but a very precisely cut hole in her throat.”

Attacking the group’s “television production studio,” Mr. Kaplan fell from his hospital bed, cutting himself and “sliding across the floor on my own blood,” he said. The hospital called security because “a nurse was trying to restrain me and I repaid her with a kick.”

Mr. Kaplan’s hallucinations lifted as doctors treated his pneumonia. But hospitals say many patients are experiencing such inexplicable disorienting episodes. Doctors call it “hospital delirium,” and are increasingly trying to prevent or treat it.

Disproportionately affecting older people, a rapidly growing share of patients, hospital delirium affects about one-third of patients over 70, and a greater percentage of intensive-care or postsurgical patients, the American Geriatrics Society estimates…

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