As the number of elderly drivers steadily increases, the decision about when it’s time to stop driving often falls to their children, who must make the gut-wrenching choice to take away the car keys, and often, their parents’ independence. But two Connecticut doctors are studying various aspects of elderly driving and their findings could eventually make the decision-making process easier or perhaps even keep elderly drivers on the road longer. At Yale New Haven Hospital, geriatrics researcher Dr. Richard Marottoli is studying driving longevity in women compared to men. He’s working to identify gender differences, determine whether women are more likely to stop driving sooner than men, and whether there is any relationship between brain volume, adverse driving experiences and medical history as it relates to the ability to drive safely. At UConn Health Center on Aging in Farmington, Dr. Kevin Manning, a neuropsychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry, is conducting a separate study using a Patterson Grant, defining what aging factors affect driving ability, identifying correctable difficulties that could help extend the driving lifetime and measuring how loss of a driver’s license is associated with the risk of depression and mortality.
Health experts are struggling to narrow the gaps in Connecticut’s geriatric care to meet the needs of the state’s rapidly aging population. The state needs more professionals to focus on geriatric care while also addressing other ways to meet the increasingly complex care needs of older residents, says the American Geriatric Society (AGS). In Connecticut, only 134 certified geriatricians are currently practicing—caring for a 65-plus population that topped 577,000 in 2015, according to the AGS. And that population will continue to grow, the AGS says, with an elderly population of 956,000 expected by 2030. That’s a 40 percent increase, and will require an estimated 340 geriatric specialists to meet that treatment need.
Allowing the spouse of a person in a nursing home to keep enough money to live on independently is, in many ways, a moral issue. But in a tight budget year in Connecticut, it’s a fiscal issue. A proposal that would increase the minimum assets that a spouse living in the community can keep — from $23,844 to $50,000 – in order for his or her partner to be eligible for Medicaid nursing home care is being backed by elder advocates, who say the increase would help seniors, especially women, remain able to live independently. But the move is being opposed by the Department of Social Services on the grounds it will shift millions in costs to the state-funded Medicaid program. The proposal would affect couples with combined assets of between $23,844 and $100,000.
Doug Crocker knows a thing or two about driving. The 74-year-old former Hartford police officer and his wife have navigated the continental U.S. three times in their motor home. Even experienced drivers feel the effects of aging when behind the wheel. “It’s harder to turn around now to look for blind spots,” he said. “Backing up is a real issue too,” especially when he drives the Jeep they tow along for in-town use.
Boomers have always been an impressive bunch. After going to Woodstock together (or pretending to), they marked each milestone as a loud, unwieldy group. And now? They’re aging together, in such large numbers that futurists warn of a silver tsunami. In Connecticut, the group is, says Julia Evans Starr, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Aging, “almost impossible to wrap your arms around.”
Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted three years ago this week, Connecticut seniors have saved a total of $84 million on prescription drugs, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday. Connecticut Medicare recipients have saved an average of $1,174, according to the HHS’ press release. Nationally, HHS said the savings have hit more than $6 billion for 6.3 million people with Medicare since the ACA became law on March 23, 2010. Advocates say the health care law is making Part D prescription drug coverage more affordable by gradually closing what is known as the “donut hole.” This is the gap in coverage where beneficiaries were paying the full cost of prescriptions out of pocket while also paying premiums.
Frances G. Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said the announcement was good news. “This is one of the real advantages of the Affordable Care Act,’’ she said.