Report: Caring for Alzheimer's Patients Is Both Costly and Time-Consuming

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Alzheimer's disease robs patients of their independence and their ability to do the most basic daily tasks. On that account, they need help or someone to do things for them -- a caregiver.

According to a report from the Alzheimer's Association, of the nearly 15 million alzheimer's caregivers, most are family members and friends and they usually are unpaid.

Yet they provide 17 billion hours of care valued a more than $200 billion, according to the report. Ten years ago there were an estimated 10 million caregivers providing half as many hours of care.

Caring for an alzheimer's patient is not easy. It's time-consuming, stressful and takes a physical toll on the providers, resulting in nearly $8 billion in extra health costs for caregivers, the report says.

Although alzheimer's can strike at middle age, it's primarily a disease of the elderly.  And as baby boomer ages, the elderly population is growing.

And even with all the unpaid support families get caring for their loved ones, the report says, health and nursing home costs for alzheimer's patients will total $183 billion this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Preventing Suicide Among Servicemembers And Vets

Pixland/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The calls come pouring in to the National Veterans Crisis Hotline in Canandaigua, N.Y. There have been some 400,000 since the center first opened in July, 2007 and many of those calls result in rescues.

There is no doubt that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a staggering toll on America's military men and women.  A stunning report issued last year showed that in 2009 more soldiers died from non-combat injuries -- like suicide, than in war. The harsh reality is that too many soldiers are dying at their own hands and the question is how best to prevent those deaths.

Dr. Janet Kemp, national director of the Suicide Prevention Hotline at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 1,100 other attendees are in Boston this week at a suicide prevention conference -- a joint collaboration between the Veteran's Administration and the Department of Defense -- to try to answer that question.

"We usually get about 11,000 calls a month and we would expect with the economy the way it is and more servicemembers coming home that our calls would increase but they haven't, they've flattened out…that led us to believe that we're not reaching everyone," said Kemp. "We know that Thursdays are our highest call volume days, but we don't know why. We know that late winter and early spring our calls increase but, again, we don't necessarily know exactly why," said Kemp.

A typical exchange goes something like this. A soldier picks up the phone and begins the conversation this way "I'm not sure this is the right place but…" at that point they indicate some level of mild distress; perhaps it's a simple relationship problem, or maybe a job-related issue and then as the call continues they might say "Oh, and by the way, I have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)" or "by the way, my wife just left me." Kemp refers to these as the "by the way" calls, when the real reason for the crisis only becomes apparent deep into the conversation.

But for those who still struggle with mental health issues, the hotline is a key resource designed to address the specific needs of servicemembers. If a caller is enrolled in the VA healthcare system, their medical records can be instantly accessed by a counselor on the other end of the phone.  And information from the hotline consultation gets dropped right into their medical file. All counselors are trained to understand the specific mental health risk factors involved in serving in the military -- the difficulty of re-entry to civilian life for instance, the trauma of PTSD or the emotional difficulty of dealing with changed family or employment circumstances.

The suicide prevention conference wraps up this week in Boston.

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Checking In: What Do Americans Think Of Health Care Reform?

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision(WASHINGTON) -- According to the results of a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking the attitudes of Americans toward the health care reform law, 42 percent of the public said they view it favorably and those who think it will improve their own quality of care, costs or ability to get insurance are at all time lows.

The poll found that 23 percent of Americans say the law will make their health care costs better compared to 42 percent who say costs will grow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Average Woman Dates Nine Men Before Finding Mr. Right

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The average woman apparently has to go through a lot of romantic wrongs before she finds Mr. Right.  The dating website recently surveyed 2,000 women about their struggles to find the right guy and learned the average woman dates nine men before finding the right one.

The survey also found women, on average, kiss 22 guys, have six one-night stands and have their hearts broken five times before finding Mr. Right.  By comparison, men on average kiss 23 girls, have 10 one-night stands and have their hearts broken six times before finding their true love.

Additional survey findings about women prior to meeting Mr. Right:

  • One in five women had a child with someone else and most lived with two men.
  • Before finding their true love, the average women went on six “bad dates” that never went anywhere.
  • The average woman has been cheated on four times and met one partner online.
  • The average woman has had three long-distance relationships.
  • 15 percent of women have ended up with a stalker after a bad date or relationship.
  • When women finally did meet “The Guy,” they were likely to know within the first four weeks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kate Middleton Trying the Latest Diet Craze?

David Cheskin - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- With slightly more than 40 days until the royal wedding, rumors are swirling that Kate Middleton is getting her body "wedding-ready." Could the future princess be shedding pounds by trying out the trendy Dukan Diet?

This high-protein, low-carb French diet is the same one her mom, Carole, started in November. The Dukan Diet puts one through four rigorous stages -- attack, cruise, consolidation and stabilization -- and is like a boot camp for your gut. The first stage, attack, includes a high-protein diet for "enabling quick weight loss," according to the diet's website. Then vegetables are added in the cruise stage -- but no fruit. This stage is to lead you to your "true weight."

The cover of the book, which will be released in the United States in April, says the diet is "The Real Reason the French Stay Thin."

With Kate Middleton's name attached -- whether she's on it or not -- the Dukan Diet could be the next weight-loss craze.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Radiation Reaction: Should You Evacuate or Take Shelter?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United States expanded its evacuation warnings for the area surrounding the nuclear reactors in Japan, now recommending that Americans in Japan stay at least 50 miles away.

The recommendation, made Wednesday, differs from that of the Japanese government, which is warning its citizens to stay 12 to 18 miles away or to stay indoors if evacuation is not possible.

But some radiation experts say that depending on the type of radioactive event, staying indoors could be more effective at lowering your risk of radiation than widespread evacuation.

Radiation is a carcinogen, and high doses or long term exposure can increase the risk of cancer.

Both taking shelter in place and evacuating pose the same risk for radiation exposure, said Jonathon Links, director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

"Depending on the nature of the release, you have to weigh the options," said Links.

If there is an explosion or meltdown, causing a one-time release of high radiation levels rather than an ongoing release over a long period of time, shelter in place may be better than evacuation, said Links.

"If you're indoors during that one-time event, the plume will pass over while you're inside breathing uncontaminated air," said Links.  "If you tried to evacuate you'd be outdoors, and depending on how mobile you would be and what direction you're evacuating, you might get significant exposure."

Some should also choose to create a shelter in place if they do not have enough time to evacuate ahead of a radiation release, according to Robert Whitcomb, lead physical scientist for the radiation studies branch in the division of environmental hazards and health effects at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the most important ways to protect oneself indoors is to make sure the contaminated air outdoors does not seep in.  That means shutting turning off any ventilation systems that circulate air, unless you are in a modern building with a high-powered filtration system.

High amounts of radiation can penetrate thinner walls exposed to the outside, so experts also advise moving to the middle of a house or office space.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Organ Transplant Recipient Contracts HIV After Donor's Unsafe Sex

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Organ donors should be screened for HIV within a week of the operation, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday.  The call came after the first documented U.S. case of HIV spread by a living donor -- a man who tested negative 10 weeks before a sick patient got his kidney.

The recipient, a kidney failure patient on hemodialysis, contracted HIV months after receiving a kidney from a man who tested negative at his initial screening, but subsequently engaged in unprotected sex, said Claudia Hutton, director of public affairs for the New York State Department of Health in Albany.  Her department, along with New York City's Department of Health, conducted a public health investigation because the 2009 transplant took place at a New York City hospital, which she declined to identify.  However, she said the hospital had followed the necessary protocols.

All agencies involved in the investigation have declined to provide the recipient's gender because of privacy concerns.

On Monday, New York health officials issued interim recommendations calling for hospital administrators, organ transplant directors, and transplant coordinators to follow up initial blood tests for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C with repeat testing.  They recommended using more sensitive testing, called nucleic acid testing, which can detect these viruses within eight to 10 days.  That is well before the immune system responds to the virus by developing antibodies, typically three weeks to eight weeks after exposure.

The state health agency said the additional tests should be performed "no longer than 14 days preceding organ donation" and recommended that potential living donors receive counseling to avoid unprotected sex and injection drug use, which could place them -- and the recipient -- at risk for HIV and hepatitis between the initial screening and the time the organs are transplanted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Analysis Reinforces Links Between Avandia and Heart Problems

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NORWICH, England) -- In 2010, the FDA announced that it would significantly restrict the use of Rosiglitazone, popularly known as Avandia, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes after the drug was associated with a higher risk of heart attacks.

Now, a new review study from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England adds more weight to the mounting evidence of the drug being associated with heart problems.

Researchers from the U.S. and UK analyzed the results of 16 studies that directly compare the risk of heart problems for two drugs popularly known as Actos and Avandia. Both the drugs are used to treat type 2 diabetes.

The team found that, compared with Actos, Avandia was associated with a slightly increased risk of heart problems.  However, the researchers noted that both drugs belong to the same class and are known to be associated with heart problems.

While the drug remains on the market in the United States, the use of Avandia has been suspended in Europe since September 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Current Laws Do Not Keep Kids from Tanning Beds

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Indoor tanning beds are known to increase the risk for skin cancer and there are several laws warning the public about this. However, a new study from San Diego University reports that current laws are not effectively working to keep adolescents from indoor tanning.

Researchers interviewed 6,125 adolescents aged 14-17 years and their parents and asked them if they had used indoor tanning beds in the past 12 months. They also analyzed state indoor tanning laws and conducted interviews with enforcement experts in the 100 most populous U.S. cities.

Their analysis found that 17.1 percent of girls and 3.2 percent of boys had used indoor tanning facilities. Moreover, teens were 70 percent more likely to use a tanning facility if a parent had used it before. Residing in a state with youth-access laws that specify age restrictions or require parental consent also did not appear to decrease the number of teens going for tanning.

The study's authors conclude that current laws are ineffective in reducing indoor tanning and bans might be needed.  The report emphasized the need for stricter laws such as a ban on tanning for people under the age of 18 years as recommended by the World Health Organization.

The study is published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Intersex Babies: Boy or Girl and Who Decides?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An estimated one in 2,000 children born each year are neither boy nor girl -- they are intersex, part of a group of about 60 conditions that fall under the diagnosis of disorders of sexual development (DSD).

Once called hermaphrodites, from the handsome Greek god who had dual sexuality, they are now known as intersex.

Standard medical treatment has been to look at the genitals, determine the gender and then correct it surgically.

But now, many are challenging the ethical basis of surgery, knowing that gender identity is complex, and doctors can sometimes get it wrong, not knowing how a child will feel about their gender assignment when they grow up.

Advocates argue that surgery is irreversible and can have tragic consequences. In some surgeries on virilized girls with ambiguous genitalia, removing sensitive tissue and vessels can ultimately rob them of sexual sensation as adults.

As little as a decade ago, the medical community thought of gender as a slate that could be erased and then redrawn. Today, gender identification is still not well understood, but experts say that when sex cannot be determined, it's better to use the best available information to assign gender, then to wait and monitor the child's psychological and physical development before undertaking surgery, if at all. Waiting until puberty also allows the child to participate in the decision.

"Our chromosomes don't tell us who we are," said Dr. Arlene Baratz, a Pittsburgh breast radiologist who has two intersex daughters. "We expect XX is pink and a girl and XY is blue and a boy, but we know from children with gender identity conditions that is not always the case, even when their bodies are perfectly typical."

Anne Tamar-Mattis, executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice, worries about the legal side of this complicated issue, especially when it involves sterilization without a child's consent.

"We don't weigh in on what medical decisions people should make," she said. "We weigh in on children's rights. If the decision involves sterilization, the child has a right to court over sight."

And when parents are making these complex decisions to remove the child's reproductive organs, they must be fully informed. Often, they are not, she said.

Katrina Karkazis, senior research scholar at Stanford's Center for Biomedical Ethics and author of Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority and Lived Experience, agrees that "the child can't speak for him or herself."

The number of children who don't accept their gender assignment is small, according to Karkazis. "What's missing is these families and kids don't get the appropriate social and psychological support."

She recommends that doctors "check in" with the child over his or her life span and "find out what they are feeling."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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