Get An ePrognosis: A newly launched website, ePrognosis.org, can help assess life expectancy for older adults. The site, created by researchers at the University of California, estimates an older patient's likelihood to die within 6 months to five years, based on a variety of conditions. The tools are intended to help doctors, caregivers and patients make decisions about things such as cancer screenings, hospice care, and treatment options. But ePrognosis isn't just accessible to doctors, as Paula Span at the New York Times notes; interactive tools and relatively open access mean anyone can use the site.
The tools are available to anyone who checks a box saying he or she is a health care professional; there is no verification. "As with any scientific data," cautioned Dr. Mitchell of Hebrew SeniorLife, "it needs some explanation of the accuracy of these prognostic tools. Some are better than others, and none are perfect. The public needs to understand that." In the end, the authors decided that creating barriers to public use would make ePrognosis less useful for physicians as well. They also wanted to bring the public into the discussion. "This is a philosophical question," said Dr. Lee, who described a trend toward better-informed patients participating in health care decisions. "In general, patients having more information is a good thing."
Of course, the info provided on ePrognosis is intended as a 'rough guide' only. The site's 'About' section notes that it "is not intended to be the only basis for making care decisions, nor is it intended to be a definitive means of prognostication."
It Takes A Virtual Village: Online, nonprofit membership groups are helping older adults who need a little assistance around the home or completing routine errands. In most cases, these virtual 'villages' charge a membership fee, which can range from about $100 to more than $1000 per year. For members, some of the services are free, provided by volunteers. Others are provided by vetted third party vendors-sometimes offering discounted rates-set up by the group. The aim? Recreating old-fashioned social connections to suit a modern world.
"When someone calls us, they may say, 'I need help with transportation,'" explains Judy Kinney, who directs an aging in place startup called North East Seattle Together. "We're going to work with them to see if it is a volunteer that helps, if it's a vetted vendor that helps or there is a community service in place ... We help you figure out the best choice."
Wednesday Quit Hits:
- Raising the Medicare eligibility age by two years (to 67) could save the federal government $148 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office says.
- In 401(k) plans, alternatives to traditional mutual fund investments-index funds, ETFs-are growing in popularity. These investments offer significantly lower fees than actively managed mutual funds.
- Did you know that the concept of 'middle age' only took root during the Civil War? A new book, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age, traces this life-stage from when it was viewed as a time of 'decline and senescence' to its modern incarnation as a stage associated with wealth, influence and reinvention.
- Cars with prescription windshields? Huffington Post writer Ann Brenoff believes such a feature "would be an overnight and surefire success, causing millions of baby boomers to rush out and line up" for a prescription-windshield equipped vehicle.
- A new book explores how couples benefit from friendships with other couples. "Being close with another couple and watching how they manage their ups and downs is a role model for how you can manage your ups and downs," co-author Geoffrey Greif says.
- And former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard talks about how aging affects athletes.
Photo: Elise Amendola/AP