Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Robots Aid In Caring For Japanese Seniors

A new robot has brought Japan one step closer to its goal of providing high-quality care for its growing elderly population.

The robot uses high-precision tactile sensors and flexible motor control technology to lift patients weighing up to 80kg (180 pounds) off floor-level bedding and into a wheelchair. The developers note this is intended to free care facility personnel of one of their most difficult and energy-consuming tasks.

Japan's elderly population in need of nursing care is projected to reach a staggering 5.69 million by 2015 experts explain. "Japan faces an urgent need for new approaches to assist care-giving personnel," states Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance "The United States will soon be facing the very same issues."

Care experts noted that one of the most strenuous tasks for such personnel, carried out an average of 40 times every day, is that of lifting a patient from a futon at floor level into a wheelchair. Robots are well-suited to this task, yet none have yet been deployed in care-giving facilities.

In 2009, the RIKEN-TRI Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research (RTC), a joint project established in 2007 and located at the Nagoya Science Park in central Japan, unveiled a robot called RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) designed to assist in this task. The first robot capable of lifting a patient from a bed to a wheelchair and back, RIBA charted a new course in the development of care-giving robots, yet functional limitations prevented its direct commercialization.

In the future, Japanese researchers plan to work together with partner nursing care facilities to test RIBA-II and further tailor it to the needs of care-givers and their patients. They explain their intent to also develop new applications in areas such as rehabilitation.

Robots will one day enable individuals to remain in their own home rather than being forced into skilled nursing facilities, Slome predicts. "This should be a most welcome development for millions of Americans though they can expected to be costly," he notes "People will either need to have the savings or insurance to cover the cost." Current forms of long-term care insurance that provide cash payments would cover the rental or purchase of robots.

The Association urges consumers to learn more about long-term care planning and get long-term care insurance cost from a designated expert via the organization's Consumer Information Center at "The best ages to start planning are between ages 52 and 62 when costs are lowest and you don't risk being declined because of existing health conditions," Slome explains.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Smoking And Weight Tied To Future Brain Shrinkage, Increased Long Term Care Insurance Need

Smoking, having high blood pressure or diabetes and being overweight during your middle years may cause brain shrinkage and lead to cognitive problems up to a decade later.

According to a new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology these factors appear to cause the brain to lose volume. Some 38.7 million Americans age 65 and older reported having one or more cognitive disorders according to the 2011 Long-Term Care Insurance Almanac published by the American Association for long-Term Care Insurance.

Health conditions increased the development of lesions secondary to presumed vascular injury, and also appeared to affect its ability to plan and make decisions as quickly as 10 years later. The findings provide evidence that identifying these risk factors early in people of middle age could be useful in screening people for at-risk dementia and encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyle before it's too late.

The study involved over 1,300 people without dementia with an average age of 54. Participants had body mass and waist circumference measures taken and were given blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes tests. They also underwent brain MRI scans over the span of a decade, the first starting about seven years after the initial risk factor exam. Participants with stroke and dementia at baseline were excluded, and between the first and last MRI exams, 19 people had a stroke and two developed dementia.

Researchers found that people with high blood pressure developed small areas of vascular brain damage, at a faster rate than those with normal blood pressure readings. They also had a more rapid worsening of scores on tests of executive function, or planning and decision making, corresponding to five and eight years of chronological aging respectively.

People with diabetes in middle age lost brain volume in the hippocampus at a faster rate than those without diabetes. Smokers lost brain volume overall at a faster rate than nonsmokers and were also more likely to have a rapid increase in white matter hyperintensities.

"Unhealthy habits come back to haunt millions at older ages," explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the long term care insurance association. "It creates an increased risk of needing long term care in your 80s and 90s a reason why planning prior to retirement is a must especially for those still in good health."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Federal Long Term Care Insurance Plan Closer To Repeal

The deficit-reduction proposal released Tuesday by the reconvened Gang of Six would repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (known as the CLASS Act).

Created as part of health reform legislation passed last year by Congress political experts refer to the CLASS Act as one of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s most cherished programs. It is also a favorite target of Republicans.

"America is facing a future long-term care crisis as the aging population balloons," explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, the insurance industry's national trade group. "CLASS has been highly controversial because on one hand it is at least some effort to address the problem though many see it as a very costly future new taxpayer-borne entitlement program."

The President-appointed fiscal commission led by former Senators Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles singled the CLASS Act out as an “unsustainable” entitlement that would most likely saddle taxpayers with a major new liability, a finding that deficit hawks have latched on to in their attacks.

"Despite the fatal flaws of the CLASS Act, the Obama administration continues to push ahead in implementing this unsustainable entitlement program,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said in a statement last week. He added that the Department of Health and Human Services is ignoring “all of the red flags raised by the massive new entitlement program that is being created.”

CLASS establishes a voluntary long-term disability insurance program that would pay disabled enrollees a cash benefit for assistance with basic daily living activities such as dressing, bathing and eating. The insurance would be offered through the workplace, where employers who agree to participate would sign up their employees automatically — but also give them a chance to decline the coverage. If they keep the coverage, they’d be able to use the benefits after they’ve paid the premiums for five years.

CLASS Act critics including many leading industry actuaries with decades of experience in pricing and marketing long-term care insurance products argue that the voluntary CLASS program is vulnerable to adverse risk selection. "Critics expect that primarily health-challenged people will sign up for CLASS, those with expensive health problems which means CLASS would not be sustained by premiums alone," Slome explains. "Or, if they artifically price it too low in order to attract more healthy individuals, you face a serious shortfall when they ultimately go on claim."

Some of these problems were intended to be worked out before the Affordable Care Act was passed, but because of its unusual route to becoming law, that never happened experts acknowledge. "The nation definitely needs to discuss how to handle providing care for aging Americans," Slome concludes. "Kicking the can down the road isn't going to keep people from growing older and needing costly long-term care."

To learn more about the CLASS Act visit the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance website at

Monday, June 20, 2011

500,000 Long-Term Care Insurance Applicants Expected

Over half a million Americans are expected to apply for long-term care insurance before the year concludes according to a projection from an industry trade group.

This marks significant continued growth in awareness and action among consumers explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance "In 2010 the Association reported that 475,000 Americans obtained long-term care insurance coverage either on an individual basis or through their employer an increase over the prior year."

According to the projection, interest and sales continue to trend up which can be attributed to several factors. "Consumers in their 50s and young 60s are more aware than ever of the risks involved in living into their 80s and 90s," Slome explains. "The millions of pre-retirees understand that government programs will not be sufficient to deal with the burgeoning number of aging baby boomers and that new federal programs will be more suited to those with existing health limitations."

The Association director notes that significant growth in sales will result from the thousands of federal employees signing up for coverage through the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) where open enrollment closes June 24. "I would expect tens of thousands of newly covered individuals in the program with an equal number who searched and compared coverage on an individual basis," Slome adds.

Over eight million Americans currently have long-term care insurance protection and roughly 200,000 received benefits from their coverage in 2010 according to the 2011 Long-Term Care Insurance Sourcebook. The majority (56 percent) of individual applicants are between the ages of 55 and 64. "People increasingly understand the need to look into this protection prior to retirement age," Slome concludes. "That is when costs are more affordable and you are still most likely able to health qualify for coverage."