Last Week’s Links

THE RISE OF THE ‘GRANNY STATE’ IN AMERICA’S NURSING HOMES

The growing number of older people entering assisted living facilities is spawning an accompanying fear of elder abuse:

More and more states are passing laws and introducing regulations requiring nursing homes to let relatives set up webcams in the private rooms of elderly family members. Until 2014, only three states — Texas, New Mexico and Washington — had laws on such cameras in assisted living facilities. But over the past five years, five more states — Illinois, Louisiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia — have introduced statutes.

But the use of such cameras raise a whole menu of privacy concerns:

  • Who has the right to request such a camera, the patient or the patient’s family?
  • Is the patient mentally competent to either request or refuse placement of a camera?
  • Do caregivers in rooms with cameras have their own right to privacy?
  • Do roommates or significant others who live in the same space also have to consent?

These are significant questions that will have to be addressed in efforts to balance safety concerns with privacy issues.

The Decline and Evolution of the School Librarian

School budget cuts inevitably lead to reductions in support staff such as school librarians:

Between 2009 and 2016, more than 9,000 full-time equivalent school library positions were eliminated in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s about a 15 percent reduction in the country’s total number of school librarian positions. What’s at risk, advocates say, is not just children’s access to books, but also the development of their research skills, digital literacy, and critical thinking.

DASH HAPPY: 6 DASHING EM DASH EXAMPLES IN LITERATURE

This article about the em dash—“possibly the most adaptable and intuitive punctuation mark there is”—just warms this former college composition teacher’s heart.

Engineers Sprint Ahead, but Don’t Underestimate the Poets

David Deming, director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, argues in The New York Times that, over time, liberal arts majors earn salaries comparable to their peers with scientific degrees.

Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction

Most humans find intense pleasure in stories about universal themes of love, death, adventure, family conflict, justice, and triumph over adversity.

That may help explain why, when stories are done well, we love them so much. Just as artificial sweeteners fool our minds into thinking we’re eating sugar, stories—even weird ones like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—take advantage of our natural tendency to want to learn about real people, and how to treat them.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas

In my earlier years I did freelance writing and editing. Scrambling for freelance gigs was a frustrating, humbling, and often thankless task. But one type of writing gig was always on the job boards: writing papers and admission essays for students. The evergreen presence of these jobs meant that, periodically, the question would arise about whether writers could or should accept them. There were always passionate answers on both sides: (1) morality be damned, I’m trying to earn a living, and (2) I may be starving, but my conscience is clear.

Just to be clear, I never took any of these jobs. But one thing I learned from this article surprised me: Many of the people taking paper-writing jobs live abroad, not in the U.S. And many of these college-educated writers make a better living at this job than they’d earn in the profession they had trained for in their country.

People Who Read Before Bed Not Only Sleep Better, But Eat More Healthily and Make More Money

This article is concerned mainly with people who read in bed at night. I have sleep disturbance problems, and people like me are always told not to eat, read, watch TV, knit, or do anything else in bed at night. The idea is to train your brain that when you go to bed, you’re ready to fall asleep. I feel deprived of the great luxury of reading in bed, but, for me, reading in my recliner before getting under the covers will have to suffice. 

But it is good to know that people who read before bed are healthy and wealthy as well as wise.

Is Dying at Home Overrated?

“A palliative care physician struggles with the complex realities of dying at home, and the unintended consequences of making it a societal priority.” 

Unless a family has the significant resources necessary to hire aides or nurses, informal caregivers become responsible for nearly everything — from feeding to bathing to toileting. These tasks often get harder as the dying person weakens. In my experience, most family members want to care for their loved ones at home, but many are unaware of caregiving’s physical and emotional toll.

Dr. Richard Leiter compassionately looks at the multiple aspects of end-of-life care and, on the basis of his own experience, concludes “we need to focus not only on where, but also on how they die.”

Nursing Homes Are a Breeding Ground for a Fatal Fungus

This article examines the potential problems involving “Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago.” 

Daydreams Shape Your Sense of Self

Psychologist Eve Blouin-Hudon addresses the question “Why is daydreaming so prevalent?” She observes that we often daydream about ourselves, about how we may feel and react in certain situations. Such daydreams contribute to building our life story: “These self-related stories allow people to make sense of who they are and to build their narrative identity—their sense of continuity through time. People need to connect who they believe they are to ongoing experiences.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

In the 1890s, Female Medical Students Embroidered a Yearbook on a Pillow Sham

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States was Elizabeth Blackwell, in 1849. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on her autobiography plus the life stories of four other pioneering 19th century women physicians. At that time the Victorian notion of separate spheres ruled society: The world of business and politics was the sphere of men, and the world of home and church was the sphere of women, who were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine. Keenly aware of their ground-breaking significance, most early women physicians chose to emphasize that their work was not a transgression into the world of men, but rather a logical extension of their traditional position as women, responsible for the care of their family’s health. 

I was therefore delighted to come across this article about women medical graduates of the time who turned women’s traditional task of needlework to the service of expressing their professional selves. Be sure to check out the photos in this article, which offers a short history on the entrance of women into the profession of medicine.

Why hasn’t evolution dealt with the inefficiency of ageing?

Jordan Pennells, a PhD student in bioengineering at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, addresses the question “how has ageing persisted within the Darwinian framework of evolution?” 

Here’s his concluding sentence:

In the drive towards the cure for ageing, evolutionary medicine has the potential to further our understanding of why human diseases arise, and elucidate the unanticipated costs of subverting this intrinsic biological process.

That phrase the cure for ageing caught my eye because it suggests that aging is not a necessary and unavoidable process of life, but rather a condition to be studied and overcome. But I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if we did, in fact, discover how to cure aging.

How Not to Grow Old in America

Tag line: “The assisted living industry is booming, by tapping into the fantasy that we can all be self-sufficient until we die.”

Geeta Anand, formerly a reporter for The New York Times, is a professor at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In this article she uses her own experience caring for aging parents to look at the assisted living industry. Here’s her conclusion:

Assisted living has a role to play for the fittest among the elderly, as was its original intent. But if it is to be a long-term solution for seniors who need substantial care, then it needs serious reform, including requirements for higher staffing levels and substantial training.

What Statistics Can and Can’t Tell Us About Ourselves

“In the era of Big Data, we’ve come to believe that, with enough information, human behavior is predictable. But number crunching can lead us perilously wrong.”

We come across a lot of statistics in our daily lives, particularly in consideration of whether a particular medication will benefit us. In this article Hannah Fry, professor at University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, explains how statistics work, particularly in the context of scientific study results.

Do you have a self-actualised personality? Maslow revisited

If you ever took an introductory psychology course, you undoubtedly learned about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, usually pictured as a pyramid with several levels. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter. Only as each level of needs, starting at the bottom, is met can an individual move up to the next higher level. At the pinacle is the achievement of self-actualization, or the pursuit of creative goals and the achievement of one’s highest potential.

This article by Christian Jarrett reports on research by Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Barnard College, Columbia University, aimed at reformulating Maslow’s work and linking it to contemporary psychological theory. 

Jarrett concludes:

The new test is sure to reinvigorate Maslow’s ideas, but if this is to help heal our divided world, then the characteristics required for self-actualisation, rather than being a permanent feature of our personalities, must be something we can develop deliberately.

He writes further that Kaufman says he believes that his work can help people reach their highest potential: “‘ Capitalise on your highest characteristics but also don’t forget to intentionally be mindful about what might be blocking your self-actualisation … Identify your patterns and make a concerted effort to change. I do think it’s possible with conscientiousness and willpower.’”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Murder, She Wrote’ & Me

Crystal Arroyo writes in The New York Times that, as a child, she never understood the appeal the TV show Murder, She Wrote held for her mother. Then, as an adult, she discovered the series airing on Netflix and immediately became a superfan. “I soon recognized that the entire series, which aired for 12 seasons, was very forward-thinking, with episodes about abortion, women in male-dominated careers and prisoners’ rights.”

But here’s what she really appreciated about the series:

What really drew me to the show, however, was Jessica herself. Brilliantly embodied by Lansbury, she is a sassy, smart and funny older woman who — despite not knowing how to drive — is totally independent. As she travels the world, she seems as comfortable in Cairo as she does back home in Maine. While she has many admirers, she doesn’t have any interest in moving on from her dead husband Frank. She has no children. This is not as sad as it sounds; she’s genuinely happy with life.

Girl, You’re a Middle-Aged Woman Now

With tongue firmly in cheek, Wendi Aarons and KJ Dell’Antonia imagine some upcoming “original TV programs, books, and movies that offer new perspectives on what it means to be ‘a woman of a certain age.’” Examples include The Middle-Aged Woman on the Train, The Middle-Aged Woman with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Middle-Aged Woman.

Accept The Awkwardness: How To Make Friends (And Keep Them)

When we retired, we moved 2,000 miles away from where we had spent our entire adult lives. Making new friends (and nurturing older friendships) can be just as difficult for older adults as it is for the junior high student entering a new school after a relocation. Here, from NPR, are some suggestions from experts on how “to make new friends, as well as to take better care of the friendships you already have.”

Home health aides care for the elderly. Who will care for them?

Subtitle: “One of the fastest-growing jobs in America is also one of the hardest.”

According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is experiencing, and will continue to experience, a “surge in the need for workers to care for the sick and elderly in their own homes.” But such jobs, which require minimal training and no college degree, prey on an easily exploitable workforce:

Because of the job’s roots in slave labor, these workers have long been excluded from US labor laws. Live-in caregivers are not entitled to overtime pay or a minimum wage under federal law, or any other labor protections. Neither are caregivers who spend less than 20 percent of their job helping clients do basic tasks. None are protected from racial discrimination or sexual harassment. They have no right to a safe workplace, and in some cases, they have no collective bargaining rights. One of the fastest-growing jobs in the US is a really lousy one.

This article provides an in-depth analysis of how to improve working conditions for this large workforce and how such improvements will increase the quality of care available for the aging population.

One of the best places to grow old? Washington has 8th-highest life expectancy in U.S., study finds

We chose to retire to Tacoma, Washington, primarily because our only child lives in this area. But we also love the quality of life here. And here’s some validation for our choice.

While Washington gets a lot of attention for being a millennial magnet, it’s also a great place to grow old, according to a new study from Senior Living, which found that our state has the eighth-highest life expectancy in the nation. Washington residents can expect to live an average of 80.2 years, according to the study.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A sampling of some of the most interesting items that caught my eye over the last week.

KODAK GOT THE DIGITAL PICTURE TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Here’s an interesting article on how Kodak, author of all those famous “Kodak moments,” missed the boat by refusing to accept and adapt to the advent of digital photography.

6 EASY HOW-TO COMPUTER BOOKS FOR NEW TECH USERS

Two books on this list are aimed specifically at us older folks:

  • Computers for Seniors: Email, Internet, Photos, and More in 14 Easy Lessons by Chris Ewin, Carrie Ewin, and Cheryl Ewin
  • Computers for Seniors For Dummies by Nancy C. Muir 

Don’t let the title of that second one get your goat. The For Dummies series is well known and even somewhat loved. When you need information on a subject you know absolutely nothing about, the For Dummies guide is often a good place to start.

Study: Retirees lose by taking Social Security at wrong time

Sarah Skidmore Sell reports for The Associated Press on a new study revealing that many older Americans aren’t maximizing their retirement income from Social Security, which “accounts for about one-third of all income annually received by U.S. retirees.” The study concludes that “optimizing Social Security would improve the lives of millions of retirees,” but there is very little information here about how individuals can figure this out for themselves.

HOW SMART TECH IS HELPING DOCTORS BATTLE DEMENTIA

Mention “dementia research” and most people will probably think of scientists looking for biomedical ways to diagnose, treat and eventually cure degenerative brain diseases. But there is also a burgeoning research program that aims to improve care for the increasing numbers of people living with dementia — estimated at 850,000 in the United Kingdom and 50 million worldwide.

Half of women over 40 say older women in fiction are clichés, survey finds

A recent survey by Gransnet, the UK’s biggest social media site for older people, and publisher HQ (HarperCollins) found that 51% of women over 40 “feel older women in fiction books tend to fall into clichéd roles.” Here are some of the most interest findings from the survey:

  • 47% of women over 40 say there are not enough books about middle-aged or older women.
  •  “when older characters do appear in fiction, half of women (50%) say they’ve seen them being portrayed as baffled by smartphones, computers or the internet – and think it’s insulting.”
  • 75% buy their books online.

As a result of the survey findings, Gransnet and HQ are launching a fiction writing competition for women writers over age 40. The article contains more information on both the survey and the writing competition. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are some of the more interesting articles from around the web that caught my interest over the last week.

A 40-Something Looks Back at ‘Thirtysomething’

As a teenager, a writer secretly viewed the ABC drama in her basement, trying to learn about marriage. Rewatching it now, she is surprised at the actual lessons she’d absorbed.

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

BookBrowse offers notes and reviews of this newly released book by Louise Aronson.

Can You Reshape Your Brain’s Response To Pain?

This article discusses the current understanding of how trauma, especially childhood trauma, can cause physical pain that may continue throughout one’s life. A new form of therapy, emotional awareness and expression therapy (EAET), has been shown in a small study to help patients alleviate their chronic pain. According to “Pain Management Best Practices,” a report published in May from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Research indicates that EAET has a positive impact on pain intensity, pain interference, and depressive symptoms.”  

The article focuses on how the treatment’s emphasis on recognizing and understanding childhood emotional trauma can help adults who experience the widespread chronic pain of fibromyalgia. One need not have lived through horrific childhood experiences such as accidents or school shootings. Neuroscientists now recognize that prolonged exposure to verbal and emotional trauma (such as bullying or humiliation by others, particularly adults) can be as damaging as physical abuse.

New payroll tax is pioneering experiment to help Washington state seniors age at home

Nearly a decade after federal officials discarded a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would have provided Americans with long-term care insurance benefits, two states — Washington and Hawaii — are experimenting with taxpayer-funded plans to help older residents remain in their homes.

Becoming a Digital Grandparent

Paula Span, a grandmother herself, assures us that engaging in interactive screen chats with grandchildren doesn’t violate the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations of limiting children’s screen time. Those guidelines “exempt video chat, which is inherently interactive and doesn’t involve the same sped-up pace, overstimulation or passivity as, say, watching cartoons.”

The Many, Tangled American Definitions of Socialism

I’ve often thought that no self-proclaimed socialist will have a shot at being elected president of the U.S. until after all of us born at the beginning of the Baby Boomer era have died. After all, we remember what that second S in U.S.S.R. stood for.

the historian John Gurda would like to add some perspective to how we think about socialism. The term has been “ground into the dust over the years,” he told me, when we met in his home town of Milwaukee, and his aim is to rehabilitate it. “Part of my self-assigned role is to provide some of the context, the nuance, where it makes sense again. Because it’s the straw man, it’s the boogeyman for an awful lot of people.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘I am mine’: This is what Alzheimer’s is like at 41

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is particularly devastating. This article tells the story of a loving couple when the husband, Jo, was diagnosed:

Four years ago, Jo was diagnosed with dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease, an extremely rare form caused by a genetic mutation slithering through his family tree. Jo watched his mother die of the same illness when he was a teenager. Even in this early-onset form of Alzheimer’s, Jo is a terrible rarity: he was 37 years old when he was diagnosed.

The publication carried an earlier story, soon after the diagnosis, that is linked here.

This article decorously discusses the many issues this family faces, including information about the decision to place Jo in an a home and end-of-life directives in patients with dementia.

Lies, lies and more lies. Out of an old Tacoma house, fact-checking site Snopes uncovers them

In the pre-internet days we called wild-sounding stories urban legends. Nowadays most such stories are spread across the internet, and we call them hoaxes.

All those viral hoaxes, spread by social media, have created a market for fact-checking sites, with Snopes, started in 1994, being the champ.

I’ve been consulting Snopes for ages, but I did not know until I came across this article that it is run out of a 97-year-old house in Tacoma, WA, my new home town. In fact, the Snopes house is in Tacoma’s North End, which is where I also live.

Snopes is particularly busy in the current political climate, in which “the hoax reports just keep rolling in.” So before you blindly repeat that story you heard on Twitter or read on Facebook, ask yourself: “ Just what is your receptivity to something that sure looks like it came from a bull?”

Best Buy is cashing in as Americans grow older

Big electronics store Best Buy is positioning itself to attract an older clientele by becoming the go-to niche market for digital health:

In August, Best Buy announced it would buy GreatCall for $800 million. GreatCall makes Jitterbug cell phones with big buttons and bright screens designed for senior citizens, as well as medical alert devices that can detect falls and summon help.

The demand for digital health products and services will grow in the future as the U.S. population of people over 65, now at around 50 million, doubles over the next 20 years as Baby Boomers retire.

Google Plus Will Be Shut Down After User Information Was Exposed

I was somewhat relieved to read this news. When Google Plus came into being, I tried for a few weeks to use it. But I never really got it: Its interface wasn’t obvious, and I never saw the point of simple links with no context.

So I’m glad to learn that I no longer have to feel inadequate about not knowing how to use Google Plus effectively. Now if I could just figure out Instagram …

Nursing Homes Are Pushing the Dying Into Pricey Rehab

Bloomberg reports:

Nursing home residents are increasingly spending time in rehabilitation treatment during the last days of their lives, subjected to potentially unnecessary therapy that reaps significant financial benefits for cash-strapped facilities, a study shows.

A study out of the University of Rochester, based on data from 647 New York-based nursing home facilities, revealed that “Some residents were found to have been treated with the highest concentration of rehabilitation during their last week of life.”

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown