Living With Grace in a Nursing Home

PhyllisEditor’s Note: Eighty-three-year-old Phyllis Donner Wolf figured she would live on her own until the end of her life and die peacefully in her sleep. But last spring, she fell and broke her neck, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. She went from living independently in her apartment in Palo Alto to a nursing facility in San Francisco called the Jewish Home. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we talk to Wolf about what it takes to live a life of grace in a nursing home.

By Phyllis Donner Wolf

I was very active. I did yoga. I did yoga for 40 years. I was in an exercise class that met every morning at quarter to 8. I drove the car for friends to go to the symphony in the city. I was the one who took someone’s walker and put it in the trunk. So when I fell it was unbelievable. I didn’t dream I would wind up in a wheelchair.

I stood up in the middle of the night, which I often would just walk to the bathroom, and this time when I stood up I found myself on the floor. I think I heard a crack, which meant that my neck and spine, the bones just were brittle and broke. And I knew I had done great damage because I could not move the lower part of me.

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Obamacare FAQ: The Deadline is Monday — What You Need to Know

State of Health editor Lisa Aliferis talked with KQED Newsroom’s Thuy Vu about the upcoming enrollment deadline. People who want health insurance that starts Jan. 1 need to enroll by 11:59pm Mon. Dec. 23.

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You can also check out KQED’s Obamacare Guide — Just for Californians for a straightforward explanation of what the Affordable Care Act means to you and your family with answers to a multitude of frequently asked questions.

How 6 Fabulous British Women Age — With Style

By Rachael Myrow

A great Friday story if ever there was one!

This British documentary looks at aging through the lens of six women in their 70s, 80s and 90s. But not just any women, these women are Fabulous Fashionistas who dress “with style and panache that belies their advancing years,” according to the film’s website. Check it out:

Woman Finds Relief From Chronic Pain by Caring for Horses

Kaitlyn Pintor visits with horses at Hoof Beats riding school in Petaluma. For the past decade, a nerve disorder has made it painful for her to experience touch. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Kaitlyn Pintor visits with horses at Hoof Beats riding school in Petaluma. For the past decade, a nerve disorder has made it painful for her to experience touch. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Kaitlyn Pintor, whose nerve disorder causes pain so severe that she’s often felt like her body has been set on fire. When the pain started nearly a decade ago, Pintor was a single mother of two. She still found time to organize support groups for people who share her chronic pain disorder. Now, a new medication has made her chronic pain more manageable. Pintor speaks to us from HoofBeats riding school in Sonoma County, where she goes for horse therapy. Reporter: Ryder Diaz.

By Kaitlyn Pintor

In 2004, I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy after an ankle sprain. I had burning pain that ended up spreading throughout my body, from head to toe.

It literally feels like you’ve been set on fire and you can’t turn the fire down. Just water brushing over my skin would cause intense flame.

The normal comforts don’t comfort you. You can’t wrap yourself in a blanket. You can’t go soak in the sun. Sounds bother you. Or the laughter of your children may turn your pain up. Continue reading

California Teens Slurping More Sugary Drinks

Arizona Green Tea is popular with teens, but this 23.5 ounce can has 51 grams -- or more than one-third of a cup -- of sugar.(Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

Arizona Green Tea is popular with teens, but this 23 ounce can has 51 grams — or more than one-third of a cup — of sugar. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

As the clock ticks toward a 2014 federal ban on the sale of sports drinks at high schools, California teenagers are showing an increasing fondness for the sugary beverages, with an alarming 23 percent spike in the consumption of sports and energy drinks since 2005, according to a new study.

At the same time, consumption of sugary drinks by young children is declining sharply, according to the study by researchers at the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The study tracked youth consumption of the beverages from 2005 to 2012.

Both trends – the surge in teens guzzling sugary drinks and the drop in consumption for younger children – are tied to regulations governing the sale of the beverages in California schools, said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

“Taking sodas out of schools contributed to a precipitous drop in consumption among younger kids,” he said, “while older kids have switched to sports drinks and energy drinks, and those products are available in schools.” Continue reading

How Hospitals Can Be More Green

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Ryder Diaz

Kaiser Permanente wants to know what’s lurking in their hospitals’ mattresses. Mattresses are often treated with brominated flame retardants. And these chemicals usually don’t stay put. They leak into the air or cling to specks of dust and enter our bodies.

“Flame retardants can be quite toxic. They accumulate in the environment and in our fat cells,” said Kathy Gerwig, vice president and environmental stewardship officer at Kaiser.

Certain beds may contain vinyl or other plastics that when produced or destroyed can release toxins into the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing the safety of these chemicals, which have been linked to increased cancer risk and other health issues.

Gerwig’s team is trying to figure out what’s in their stock. If they prove to be harmful, swapping out hospital beds is bound to be a big undertaking. “We have a lot of mattress,” she said. But if necessary, it’s a task Gerwig would embrace.

Kaiser hospitals are among more than 100 private and public hospitals in California that are moving toward more sustainable practices for their facilities, said Laura Wenger, executive director of Practice Greenhealth. Continue reading

Gov. Brown Signs Transgender Students’ Rights Bill

By Scott Detrow, KQED

Update 1:05pm: Gov. Jerry Brown has signed AB 1266 into law.

Here’s the original post:

A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would allow transgender students to participate in sports and other activities as well as use facilities based on how they identify their gender, regardless of what sex they were born as. The governor has until Tuesday at midnight to sign or veto the bill.

The legislation, AB 1266, adds just four words to California law, but the Transgender Law Center’s legal director, Ilona Turner, calls it a major step toward acceptance.

“When transgender students are forced to participate in activities based on the sex that they were assigned that is not the sex they are living as, it outs them as transgender, for one thing,” she said, “and subjects them to all kinds of stigma and harassment from their peers.”

California’s education laws already ban gender-based discrimination, but outreach group Gender Spectrum’s director of education and training, Joel Baum, said the new measure would “give clear direction” to school administrators making decisions on a sensitive subject. Continue reading

Univision Obamacare Deal Could Put WellPoint Ahead Of Competitors

By Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News

Some 10 million Latinos nationally — including nearly 3 million in California — stand to gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and the Spanish-language media network Univision is positioning itself as a direct path to this potentially lucrative market.

WellPoint and other Blue insurers in six states, including California, have signed deals with Univision for undisclosed sums to be the exclusive health insurance sponsor of the network’s Peabody-award winning health initiative, “Salud Es Vida,” which means Health Is Life. WellPoint is the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross in California.

A spokesman for Covered California, confirmed that the agency is finalizing guidelines for “plan-based enrollment.”
The deals include a special plan-sponsored Univision website that will be able to connect Latinos with coverage on the online markets, or exchanges, that will serve individuals beginning in October. But it’s a path that could take a detour around some competitors who are offering plans: Because of a little-known rule proposed by the administration in June, customers will be able to buy their subsidized Obamacare insurance directly from the insurer.

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Advocates Demand Governor’s Attention on California Developmental Centers

By Caroline Chen, Center for Investigative Reporting

Advocates for the developmentally disabled gathered today at the state Capitol to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown focus his attention on the 1,500 men and women living in California’s troubled board-and-care facilities, described by one resident as “hellholes.”

Waving a thick stack of reports in the air, Jacquie Dillard-Foss, CEO of Strategies to Empower People, which provides services for the disabled to live independently, said cases of patient abuse and neglect at the state’s five institutions had been recorded since the early 1990s, but with little response from the government.

“We know the problem has existed for decades,” Dillard-Foss said. “We are in the midst of a human crisis.”

The event in Sacramento comes a week after the California State Auditor released a scathing report detailing the failures of the Department of Developmental Services to protect the people who reside in its institutions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sonoma and Tulare counties.

A letter from the advocates in today’s event calls on Brown to appoint an administration official to respond to the audit’s findings. Continue reading

Aetna and United Leave California; Who’s Moving In?

By Dan Diamond, California Healthline

United Healthcare has more than 4,700 hospitals in its national network.

Valley Health Plan has four, all located in Santa Clara County.

That relative scale is one reason why United’s departure from California’s individual market last week got so many headlines — even though United only covers 8,000 people in the state — while the news of Valley’s inclusion in Covered California last month got almost none.

And on the surface, the thought of losing the nation’s largest health insurer doesn’t seem to augur much good for the Golden State’s health reform efforts. Especially in the wake of Aetna’s similar announcement last month.

But take the glass half-full approach, a handful of experts say: Think about who’s stepping in to fill the void. Continue reading