Aging & Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Care for the Caregiver, Financial, Elder Abuse, Osteoporosis

Information, updates and interesting tidbits from across the country and around the world.

In this issue:

  • Fish in space provide insight about osteoporosis
  • The American Medical Association confirms heavy burden of caregiving
  • IRS impostors bilk seniors out of millions

NASA Fish Experiment Could Lead to New Treatment for Osteoporosis

Astronaut on the International Space Station

Aboard the International Space Station, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide studies low-gravity-related bone loss of fish in the Aquatic Habitat . (Photo: NASA)

Did you know that astronauts on long missions lose an average of 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass for every month they're in space? NASA medical experts report that these space travelers also don't seem to recover completely once back on Earth. This could be a serious problem for astronauts on a mission to Mars or beyond! The low gravity aboard a space vehicle is the equivalent of lying in bed immobile, and even exercising doesn't slow it entirely. So NASA scientists are studying ways to prevent this accelerated bone loss. In a recent study, a research team headed by University of Tokyo biotechnology professor Akira Kudo raised small fish aboard the International Space Station. Kudo's team noted that the fish swam around normally at first — but later, they spent more and more time motionless. The team examined the bones and teeth of the fish, and found that living in space had caused an increase of osteoclasts — cells that control the breakdown of bone tissue. Understanding this effect could help NASA develop bone-protecting drugs for astronauts on long-term missions. Kudo also points out, "It has been difficult to understand the mechanism of age-related bone loss on Earth." He hopes his research could advance the development of drugs to treat the millions of seniors back on Earth who are living with the disease. Read more about this study on the NASA website

AMA Confirms Impact of Caregiving on Families, Employers

In February 2016, the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine published a study confirming what many family caregivers already know: Caring for an older loved one can take a tremendous amount of time, money and energy, and caregivers need more help. Study author Jennifer Wolf, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that almost half of the nation's caregivers help their loved one coordinate medical appointments and manage medications. According to Wolf, "A lot of work goes into managing the care of people with complex health needs, and this work is borne not only by health care providers and patients, but also by their families. Little attention has been directed at understanding the extent of or consequences for this unpaid and invisible workforce that is vital to the care of the chronically ill." Wolf found that that these caregivers suffer physical, emotional and financial difficulties, and find little time for activities they enjoy. And families aren't the only ones impacted; the researchers said, "Such caregivers are also three times more likely to be less productive at work due to distraction and/or fatigue, a phenomenon called 'presenteeism,' as well as outright absenteeism. There is a significant — and often unrecognized — cost borne by employers."

Warn Seniors About IRS Impersonators

Could anything be more frightening than a threatening phone call from the Internal Revenue Service? The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging warns that con artists pretending to be from the IRS are targeting older adults. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has called this scam the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of the IRS. Victims have handed over more than $23 million to the crooks. Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the Aging Committee, reports, "Through this scam, of which there are multiple variations, con artists demand immediate payment of 'back taxes' and threaten retaliation, such as home foreclosure and even arrest if payment of 'back taxes' is not made." These scam calls often use a disguised or "spoofed" caller ID so it looks like the call is coming from Washington, DC. With such scams reaching epidemic proportions across the country, TIGTA has released tips to help taxpayers identify calls that may be part of a scam:

  • The IRS will never call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed a bill to the taxpayer.
  • The IRS will never demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without giving him or her the opportunity to question or appeal the amount claimed to be owed.
  • The IRS will never ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.
  • The IRS will not threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to have a taxpayer arrested.
  • The IRS will never require a taxpayer to use a specific payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

You can watch a short video about the scam here; share it with older loved ones as well. Sen. Collins advises seniors to simply hang up if they receive a call like this. You can report a call to the FTC (1-877-382-4357), the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), or to the Senate Aging Committee's Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470).

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2016 IlluminAge