Medical News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called this the worst Flu season since the 2009 swine flu.

Flu experts agree that the 2017-18 flu season may not be a full-blown pandemic, but it sure is nasty.
The flu is widespread across 48 US states right now. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say doctors have been seeing as many patients as they did at the height of the 2009 H1N1.

Eighty-four children across the country have died from the flu this year, and experts think the real number could be double the total in official reports.
In California, at least 185 people under the age of 65 have died. As of early January, most of those deaths were unvaccinated adults, the state’s Department of Health told Business Insider.
Flu shots are less effective this year than they’ve been in the past, but the vaccine can still help.

It’s true that the flu vaccine is not as effective this year, largely because it doesn’t protect as well against the H3N2 strain, which is everywhere. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday said the vaccine is about 36% effective this year, and only 25% effective at combatting H3N2.
It’s still a good idea to get vaccinated if you haven’t, though, because the shot is more effective at preventing other strains of the virus, such as the influenza B strains. In addition to lowering the likelihood that you’ll contract the flu, the vaccine can reduce the intensity of your illness if you do catch it. Flu season can last into May, so if you haven’t gotten your dose yet, it’s not too late.

A 2017 study found that a flu shot could significantly reduce a child’s likelihood of dying from the virus.
Pregnant women are especially encouraged to get flu shots because they’re more likely to be hit hard by the virus. And there’s some evidence that if a pregnant mom gets the shot, that can protect babies in their first months of life, when they’re too young to get the vaccine.

Many people coming down with the flu can stay home and wait it out with the help of liquids, over-the-counter drugs, and a heavy dose of sleep.
But when prescribed quickly, drugs like Tamiflu can help shorten the duration.

People from 50 to 64 years old have the second-highest hospitalization rate in the US, after elderly people. They’re sicker than kids up to age 4 this year, which experts say is unusual.
Coming down with the flu can also increase your risk of heart attack sixfold, a new study found, because it puts more stress on your system and can increase inflammation. Plus, “when you get an infection, your heart is beating faster,” Jeffrey Kwong, the study’s lead author, told Reuters.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

As you prepare for influenza season, we want to share important vaccine updates.

2017 – 2018 Recommendation Highlights. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC continue to recommend annual influenza vaccination with an injectable influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women. The recommendation not to use live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) was extended for the 2017 – 2018 season.

Vaccine Supply. Manufacturers have projected they will produce between 151 million and 166 million doses of injectable influenza vaccine for the 2017 – 2018 influ enza season , which should ensure sufficient supply of vaccine.

When to Vaccinate. Optimally, vaccination should occur before onset of influenza activity in the community. We recommend vaccination by the end of October , if possible. To avoid missed opportunities for vaccination, providers should offer vaccination during routine health care visits and hospitalizations when vaccine is available. Vaccination efforts should continue throughout the season because the duration of the influenza season varies and influenza activity might not occur in certain communities until February or March. Vaccine administered in December or later is likely to be beneficial even if given after the influenza season has begun. .

Below are some data that might inform your conversations with patients in the upcoming months:

Influenza vaccine can prevent flu illness and hospitalization. CDC estimates that influenza vaccination prevented approximately 5.1 million influenza illnesses, 2.5 million influenza – associated medical visits, and 71,000 influenza – associated hospitalizations during the 2015 – 20 16 season , with a n overall vaccine effectiveness of 48%.

Influenza vaccination may make illness milder. While some people who get vaccinated may develop influenza , vaccination may make their illness milder. A 2017 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) showed that influenza vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized influenza patients.

For additional info see Who should Get the Flu Vaccine?

Know the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s

Know the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s, Early Detection Matters!

Your memory often changes as you grow older.  But memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging.  It may be a symptom of dementia.  Dementia is a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.  The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal disorder that results in the loss of brain cells and function.

What’s the difference?

Signs of Alzheimer’s

  • Poor judgment and decision Making
  • Inability to manage a budget
  • Losing track of the date or the season
  • Difficulty having a conversation
  • Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them
Typical age – related changes

  • Making a bad decision ocassionally
  • Missing a monthly payment
  • Forgetting which day it is and remembering it later
  • Sometimes forgetting which word to use
  • Losing things from time to time


  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spacial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
  9. Withdrawl from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood or personality

24/7 Alzheimer’s Helpline – Available all day every day.(800) 272-3900

Downsizing the Family Home

So how do you do downsize? In researching this post I discovered Marni Jameson’s wonderful book “Downsizing the Family Home” published last year by AARP. She has learned how to dump everything, from husbands to houses to stuff. She starts off by quoting Morris’s contemporary, Mark Twain, acknowledging the emotional tugs:Our house was not unsentient matter — it had a heart and a soul, and eyes to see with…. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome — and we could not enter it unmoved.Mark Twain’s house spoke to him, and no doubt the stuff in it did too. Jameson gets how stuff speaks to families, and how hard it is to part with it: “Simply and starkly put, sorting through a household makes us face our own mortality: the passage of time, life and death, where we’ve been, where we haven’t been, where we are in life, successes and regrets.”

When discussing the first cut of getting rid of stuff, Jameson channels Morris and writes:When sorting, ask these  questions: Do I love it? Do I need it? Will I use it? If you don’t answer yes to one of them, the item goes. This is a message that resonates with every generation.  I came to the conclusion that the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge: Lose the emotional baggage and keep what is beautiful, loved or that sparks joy.

So how do you narrow it down when you’re dealing with your parents’ house of treasures? I particularly liked the advice Peter Walsh of TLC’s “Clean Sweep” gave Jameson: Imagine that your parents have deliberately left you five treasures. Your job is to find the items that have the strongest, happiest memories for you. Go through not in sadness but in loving memory. So look with joy for the few, best items to keep. Let the rest go.

Perhaps the best advice in Jameson’s book is the discussion about when to downsize.  Attitude — and timing — makes a difference. Moves to downsize are much easier when people choose to move, rather than when the move chooses them, which happens when people become too frail, have an accident, lose a spouse who made independent living possible, or start having cognitive issues.The consensus from the book, from my personal experience and from the many comments on my post is that we should get ahead of the problem. Get rid of the stuff while you can and don’t leave it to your kids, because they really will not thank you for it or know what to do with it. For your kids, emptying your house will not spark joy.

Downsizing has become a significant industry, and with 8,000 Americans turning 65 every day, there’s a significant market. There’s even a professional association, the National Association of Senior Move Managers, “who specialize in helping older adults and their families through the daunting process of transitioning to a new residence.”  There are companies that will come into your home and organize your stuff, photograph it and get rid of it, using the latest social media resources.

When is Medicare Open Enrollment for 2018 Coverage?

When is Medicare Open Enrollment for 2018 Coverage?

A: For 2018 Medicare coverage, open enrollment is in the fall of 2017, from October 15 to December 7. (The specific dates changed in 2011, but have been the same ever since, and should remain as-is for the foreseeable future.)

During this annual enrollment period (AEP)  you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

  • You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
  • You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
  • And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.

If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must meet some basic criteria.

  • You must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.
  • You must live in the plan’s service area.
  • You cannot have End-Stage Renal Disease(some exceptions apply).

Is auto-renewal available?

If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan and you don’t want to make changes to your coverage for 2018, you don’t need to do anything during open enrollment, assuming your current plan will still be available in 2018. If your plan is being discontinued and isn’t eligible for renewal, you will receive a non-renewal notice from your carrier prior to open enrollment. If you don’t, it means you can keep your plan without doing anything during open enrollment.

But be aware that your benefits and premium could be changing for 2018. So even if you’re confident that you want to keep your current coverage for the coming year, it’s important to make sure you understand any changes that may apply, and that you’ve double checked to make sure that your current plan is still the best available option. The available plans and what they cover changes from one year to the next, so even if the plan you have now was the best option when you shopped last year, it’s important to verify that again before you lock yourself in for another year.

Enrolling in Original Medicare

If you didn’t sign up for Medicare A and B when you were first eligible, you have a chance to do so each year from January 1 to March 31, with coverage effective July 1.  You may be subject to a late enrollment penalty however.

2018 Medicare coverage changes

Do you have questions about the 2018 medicare coverage changes?

Here are some changes to be aware of for 2018:

  • Starting in April 2018, Medicare beneficiaries will begin receiving new Medicare ID cards that don’t have Social Security numbers on them. This change was announced in September 2017. The new cards will have randomly generated ID numbers instead of Social Security numbers. You can continue to use your current card until your new one arrives. Once it does, you’ll want to destroy and securely dispose of your old one, and begin using the new one instead.
  • Medicare recipients reaching the donut hole will benefit from better prescription drug discounts. The gap in prescription drug coverage (the donut hole) starts when someone reaches the initial coverage limit ($3,750 in 2018), and ends when they have spent $5,000. The hole will be closed by 2020 and enrollees will pay just 25 percent of the cost of their drugs. For 2018, while in the donut hole, enrollees will pay 35 percent of the cost of brand name drugs. The Medicare Part D deductible will be $405 in 2018.
  • Medicare Part B premiums will fluctuate again for 2018.In 2017, most Medicare Part B enrollees paid an average of $109/month for their Part B premium, although enrollees with income above $85,000 had higher premiums.  We may expect the premium to be highter in 2018.
  • New income brackets for Part B enrollees with high incomes. new income brackets were created to determine Part B premiums for high-income Medicare enrollees. The new brackets take effect in 2018. For Medicare purposes, “high income” begins at $85,001 for a single individual, and $170,001 for a married couple. Enrollees with income between $85,001 and $107,000 ($170,001 and $214,000 for a married couple) won’t see any changes to their bracket. But enrollees with income above those limits may find that they are in a higher bracket. The highest bracket will now apply to those with income above $160,000 ($320,000 for a married couple).
  • Medicare Advantage plans continue to see changes. While healthcare reform is slowly reducing rebates paid to Medicare Advantage plans, these plans continue to be popular. 31 percent of Medicare recipients were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2016 – a significant increase from the enrollment total in 2009 when the ACA was signed into law. These plans may change yearly.

Most Medicare beneficiaries should receive their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan providers by Sept. 30. CMS will make information available to the public on in October. The Medicare website is for individuals with questions about Medicare rules, timelines, Medicare Part D, etc.

It’s important to carefully review the information sent to you by your plan provider, since this will cover any possible changes.  See ACA Dates and Deadlines for the deadlines to enroll.



ACA Dates and deadlines for 2018 Health Insurance

The 2018 Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017.
Plans sold during Open Enrollment start January 1, 2018.

If you haven’t applied for insurance on before, here’s what you need to know about the Health Insurance Marketplace (sometimes known as the health insurance “exchange”).

The Health Insurance Marketplace is for people who don’t have health coverage
If you don’t have health insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or another source that provides qualifying health coverage, the Marketplace can help you get covered.

If you have job-based insurance: You can buy a plan through the Marketplace, but you’ll pay full price unless your employer’s insurance doesn’t meet certain standards. Most job-based plans do meet the standards.
If you have Medicare: You can’t switch to Marketplace insurance, supplement your coverage with a Marketplace plan, or buy a Marketplace dental plan. Learn about Medicare and the Marketplace.
What you pay for insurance depends on your income – and you’ll probably save
Your savings depend on your expected household income for the year. Over 8 in 10 people who apply are eligible to save, and most can find plans for $50 to $100 per month (after accounting for savings).

Get a quick idea if you’ll save. Based on your income estimate, we’ll tell you if you qualify for:

A health insurance plan with savings based on your income

You may qualify for a premium tax creditthat lowers your monthly insurance bill, and for extra savings on out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copayments.
The plans are offered by private insurance companies with a range of prices and features.
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Medicaid and CHIP provide free or low-cost coverage to millions of people and families with limited income, disabilities, and some other situations.

Many states are expanding Medicaid to cover all households below certain incomes. See if your state is expanding and if your income is in range to qualify.  Your children may qualify for CHIP even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid.

You can apply for coverage 4 ways Applying on is easier than ever, and many people can apply, pick a plan, and enroll in a single sitting. You can apply any way that works for you:

After December 15, you can enroll in 2018 health insurance only if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Flu Season is here, Your Best Shot is the Flu Shot

With fall approaching, it is a sure bet that cold and flu season will soon follow bringing the risk of flu illness. Some people will only be mildly sick or miserable for a few days, but for some, flu can be very serious and may even result in hospitalization or death.  Flu shots are highly recommended for Seniors 65 and older.

Flu viruses infect the nose, throat, and lungs and can cause a wide range of complications. Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu. Pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either flu virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis), and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu virus infection can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Over the past six flu seasons, the U.S. has experienced several flu seasons with high rates of hospitalization and severe disease.

Flu vaccination can help keep you from getting sick from flu. Protecting yourself from flu also protects the people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness. People at increased risk of flu complications include older adults, people with chronic medical conditions, and children younger than 6 months old.

CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. While the flu vaccine can vary in how well it works, it is the best tool modern medicine currently has to prevent infection with influenza viruses. CDC estimates that for the 2015-2016 influenza season only about 45% of the population were vaccinated. Still, influenza vaccination prevented approximately 5.1 million influenza illnesses, 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 71,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations. CDC experts calculated that a 5 percentage point increase in vaccination rates could have prevented another 500,000 influenza illnesses, 230,000 influenza-associated medical visits, and 6,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations across the entire population.

We have stated above that flu illness can be serious and that flu vaccine can prevent illness. There are other misconceptions that discourage people from getting vaccinated. To clear those up:

  1. A flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are soreness, redness and/or swelling where the shot was given, fever, and/or muscle aches. These side effects are NOT flu. If you do experience side effects, they are usually mild and short-lived, especially when compared to symptoms from a bad case of flu.
  2. Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years. There has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor the safety of vaccines approved for use in the United States.

What vaccine to get this season:

CDC recommends use of injectable influenza vaccines (including inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines) during 2017-2018. Similar to last season, the nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) is not recommended for the 2017-2018 flu season. Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) flu vaccines will be available. There is no preferential recommendation for any of the licensed and recommended vaccines this season.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against flu. Take your best shot in the fight against flu! Protect yourself and your loved ones, and get a flu shot by the end of October, if possible.

If you have questions, talk to your doctor or other health care professional about the benefits of flu vaccination. Along with CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases, and many other professional medical groups recommend an annual influenza vaccine. While there are many people who skip getting a flu vaccine, thinking that they do not work, or that the flu shot will give them the flu, there is a lot of research that disproves these misconceptions.

Source CDC

Top Health Benefits of Vitamin D

What exactly does vitamin D do for us and why should we be motivated to get enough of it? Luckily, 10-15 minutes in the sun each day can give us an ample dose, but sometimes, we don’t have time. According to an article by Health Remedies Journal, here are some of the top health benefits of vitamin D.

  • Lowers Risk of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Taking vitamins can prevent all different types of problems including a painful condition called rheumatoid arthritis. Eating organic eggs, mushrooms, and getting daily sunlight can help keep your body healthy and reduce the risk of getting this uncomfortable disease. As you age, your body really starts to need regular vitamin intakes because it will break down faster. If you take care of your health while you’re younger, you can avoid the onset of these painful conditions. Look at how much you’re supposed to get on a daily basis and, if it helps, keep a checklist of all the vitamins you get so you don’t forget. Because arthritis has the “-itis” suffix, it means it is an inflammatory disease and remember vitamin D is able to reduce the amounts of CRP which causes a lot of inflammation.
  • Boosts Your Immune System
    Vitamin D is another incredible, natural booster for our immune system. We rely on our immune system to protect us from a wide range of infections and bugs and, without it, we’d die. Vitamin D can boost immunity by providing immune cells with the energy they need to work efficiently.
  • Reduces Painful Inflammation
  • Inflammation is the root of some cancers!  The science shows that vitamin D helps lower the amount of C-reactive protein in your body which is responsible for painful inflammation. Abbreviated CRP, this compound is actually reduced by one third when you consume vitamin D. It’s great to know you can reduce your inflammation through getting a vitamin instead of taking a medication that has potentially harmful side effects and drug interactions.
  • Helps You Stay Mentally Alert and Emotionally Stable
    Even if you’re not struggling with a serious health problem, you may struggle with feeling mentally alert and keeping your emotional state positive. Most don’t realize how much of it has to do with the chemical processes in their body that can be regulated with a healthy diet and exercise. The older you get the more important this becomes. But, no matter what age you are, the healthier you Vitamin D helps your brain create positive neural connections that keep your mind sharp. This vitamin is known to help prevent Alzheimer’s as well.
  • Reduces Risk of Cancer
    Cancer is not a complete mystery anymore. We do know many of the reasons it develops and most of it comes from an unhealthy lifestyle (your body is constantly constipated, inflamed, or dehydrated). If you give yourself the proper nutrients, you greatly lower your risk of developing cancer. If you exercise regularly, you’ll allow those nutrients to do their jobs as well. Vitamin D can help reduce the growth of cancer cells and is an important part of the healing process of cancer.
  • Lowers Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
    If you are pre-diabetic, you should start making sure you get your full vitamin spectrum every day. Vitamin D helps to regulate insulin levels by helping your body secrete the chemical. Even if you are hyperglycemic, vitamin D will be helpful for you. If you want to avoid having to take insulin shots or medication, start getting your daily dose of sunshine.
  • Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
    Because the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, it’s extremely important to mention that Vitamin D can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease. There are many different types of heart disease that can come on slowly with symptoms that are very hard to detect. Many people don’t even realize they have a problem until it’s too late. Science has proven that people who don’t get adequate vitamin D are at a higher risk for these life-threatening conditions. Remember, you can always combine a supplement to your diet to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D and other nutrients if you don’t get a balanced diet. It’s always better to get nutrients in your food, but that’s what supplements are designed to make up for.
  • Helps Keep Your Bones Strong
    Many young people are known to live for the moment and eat what they love, not what they think is best for their health. This habit stays on as they age because it’s hard to make health food palatable once the taste buds are addicted to artificial flavors added to processed foods. The sooner you switch to a clean healthy diet, the stronger your bones will stay as you age. The healthier your diet, the lower your risk of developing painful and high risk conditions such as osteoporosis. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium in the body, so get your vitamin D and calcium on a daily basis and put your mind at ease.

There are many other benefits to Vitamin D so ensure you are getting enough. It’s always better to get nutrients in your food, but if you’re not getting enough you can always add dietary supplements to make up for it.  Good nutrition plays a vital role for healthy living.


Therapy dogs can improve the quality of life for those who live alone

Having just adopted a cute little puppy (and possible therapy dog), I was inspired to share what I know about pets, especially dogs, assisting those who are mostly immobile or homebound. Not everyone of course enjoys animals, but for those that do…

Therapy Dogs’ owners are dedicated to providing services to individuals living at home through “Home Visit Programs”. The goal is to help people in need maintain and enhance the best possible level of independent living.

Whether a hospice patient, an aging patient or a disabled individual, Dog Therapy Associations hope to improve their quality of life by bringing Therapy Dogs to their homes where they feel most comfortable. Often, the dogs add a sense of normalcy. Their visits help people feel as if their lives are a little better and at times, more complete. Life may seem more manageable, especially to one who has to stay in bed, if they spend some time with Therapy Dogs. The visits help to promote healing because the patient is able touch and pet the dog. This allows them to feel like everyone else and their happiness and contentment helps them to do better.

Families are often the primary caregivers for a person who requires care at home. While the dogs are visiting, the caregiver has some time to rest or do necessary chores as the dog provides the love and companionship to the patient.

Studies have proven that human or animal touch, hugs and love go far to improve the quality of life for those who live alone, whether a spouse has passed on or one has remained single over the years.

A number of condo associations state a policy of no pets allowed. But by law, a “Service Dog” is allowed everywhere! There is a difference between a “Therapy Dog” and a “Service Dog”. But a dog can be both! If you would like more information on Therapy Dogs, please visit “TDI”, “Therapy Dogs International”

Just an additional note: This is Maddie, a potential Therapy Dog in some future day. She first has to stop chewing furniture and learn puppy dog kisses on command only! She is 7 weeks old.