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March 2014 Archives

Protein May Hold the Key to Who Gets Alzheimer’s

The memory and thinking problems of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, which affect an estimated seven million Americans, may be related to a failure in the brain’s stress response system, the new research suggests. If this system is working well, it can protect the brain from abnormal Alzheimer’s proteins; if it gets derailed, critical areas of the brain start degenerating.

It is one of the big scientific mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease: Why do some people whose brains accumulate the plaques and tangles so strongly associated with Alzheimer’s not develop the disease?

The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, focuses on a protein previously thought to act mostly in the brains of developing fetuses. The scientists found that the protein also appears to protect neurons in healthy older people from aging-related stresses. But in people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the protein is sharply depleted in key brain regions.

Experts said if other scientists could replicate and expand upon the findings, the role of the protein, called REST, could spur development of new drugs for dementia, which has so far been virtually impossible to treat.REST appears to switch off genes that promote cell death, protecting neurons from normal aging processes like energy decrease, inflammation and oxidative stress.

But in people with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia, the brain areas affected by these diseases contained much less REST than healthy brains.

Read about this in the Health section of the New York Times on March 19, 2014

William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   http://www.wombacherlaw.com
 
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.




A Wedding in Intensive Care

In today’s outcome-driven, efficiency-obsessed medical world, it’s easy to forget that healing patients isn’t just about treating diseases and relieving symptoms. There are things doctors and nurses can do, meaningful interventions — like helping patients fulfill final goals or spend quality time with their families — that cannot be documented in a discharge summary or be converted into a blip on a screen.

There wasn’t going to be a happy ending. The patient had metastatic cancer and had just gone through her third unsuccessful regimen of chemotherapy. Now it seemed that everywhere we looked, we found disease.

Our team was used to dealing with all kinds of crises: Handling a last-minute wedding was not one of them. While having more than one opinion on a medical team regarding how best to manage a patient is fairly routine, we received no push back from anyone as we started to make arrangements for the wedding. Soon the whole medical team was involved. We sent a letter to the court to expedite the marriage certificate. A pastor and harp player were booked. The hospital cafeteria baked a chocolate cake, and the nurses brought in flowers. In just a few days, we were ready.

Read a story by a doctor about making sure his patient could be her daughter's wedding in the New York tomes onmarch 19, 2014.

William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   http://www.wombacherlaw.com
 
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.

Big Retirement Mistake: Thinking You Know When To Claim Social Security, When You Don't

In a just released survey of 55 and older workers, 24% say they are “very  confident” and another 53% described themselves as “somewhat confident” that they know enough to make that big decision.

The catch is, when the same folks took an eight question quiz about crucial Social Security rules, just 5% got all the answers right. Another 22% got 7 correct, while 45% got 3 or more wrong.  Workers can start their Social Security checks anywhere from age 62 until 70, but just  40% knew that the percentage increase in monthly benefits from a two year delay was somewhere between “11% and 20%”  (it’s  14%),  meaning most did not know the value of delaying Social Security, a crucial matter.  (The “full” Social Security retirement age for those born between 1943 and 1954 is 66, but you can claim Social Security retirement benefits anywhere from 62 to 70, with your monthly check increased for each month you wait; a worker gets a 76% higher benefit if he claims at 70 than he would at 62.  Essentially, by delaying your Social Security claim, you’re buying an inflation indexed annuity from Uncle Sam far more cheaply than you could purchase it from even a low-cost private annuity provider. The payoff to waiting has gotten even sweeter in recent years, due to rising life expectancy and falling interest rates, making it wise for most boomers to wait until well past 62 to start benefits.)

By Financial Engines’ figuring, there are thousands of different variations in the way a married couple could claim benefits and their lifetime income gains from an optimal strategy could exceed $250,000, says Chief Investment Officer Christopher L.  Jones. For a single, gains can be in excess of $100,000. Both numbers are huge when you consider the typical 60 year old only has about $125,000 in his 401(k), he points out.  Even if you’re well off, the potential payback is nothing to sneeze at.

Read more about this in an article from Forbes on March 11, 2014 by Janet Novack

William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   http://www.wombacherlaw.com
 
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.



New study ranks Alzheimer’s as third-leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer

Alzheimer’s disease likely plays a much larger role in the deaths of older Americans than is reported, according to a new study that says the disease may be the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

Allergies Are Everywhere

People hoping to find an allergy-free haven may be out of luck. A new study has found that no region of the United States is allergy-free, but the kind of allergy people are likely to suffer from varies by region, race and socioeconomic status.

Grass and ragweed sensitivities were higher in the West, mold allergy more common in the East. Positive tests for indoor allergens were higher in the East than the West, but there were almost no regional differences for peanut, shrimp, egg, dog, cat, rat and mouse sensitivities.

The Tax Break You’re Missing Out On

Most workers are eligible to contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA in 2013 and get a tax deduction on the amount they save. A worker in the 25 percent tax bracket who contributes $5,500 to a traditional IRA this year would pay $1,375 less on his 2013 tax bill. But few people save enough to maximize this tax break.

One Third of Skilled Nursing Patients Harmed in Treatment

One-in-three patients in skilled nursing facilities suffered a medication error, infection or some other type of harm related to their treatment, according to a government report released today that underscores the widespread nature of the country’s patient harm problem.

Doctors who reviewed the patients’ records determined that 59 percent of the errors and injuries were preventable. More than half of those harmed had to be readmitted to the hospital at an estimated cost of $208 million for the month studied — about 2 percent of Medicare’s total inpatient spending.

The doctors found that 22 percent of patients suffered events that caused lasting harm, and another 11 percent were temporarily harmed. In 1.5 percent of cases the patient diedbecause of poor care, the report said. Though many who died had multiple illnesses, they had been expected to survive.

The injuries and deaths were caused by substandard treatment, inadequate monitoring, delays or the failure to provide needed care, the study found. The deaths involved problems such as preventable blood clots, fluid imbalances, excessive bleeding from blood-thinning medications and kidney failure.

Read about this in ProPublica in a March 3, 2014 story by Marshall Allen.

William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   www.wombacherlaw.com
 
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.


Retirees-- Should you forget the 4% savings withdrawal rule?

Based on studies of stock and bond returns since 1926, financial planners had settled on a benchmark for how much a retiree could spend each year without fear of running out of cash. It turned out that a person who invested half in stocks and half in bonds could spend 4% of his or her wealth in the first year, adjust that dollar amount for inflation in subsequent years, and still have money 30 years later. That worked in every historical 30-year period, as well as in most computer simulations based on the historical rate of return. Even drawing a hefty 5% worked more often than not. 

When Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at the American College for Financial Services, says both stocks and bonds are expensive, he isn't predicting an imminent crash -- the Ph.D. economist is a number cruncher, not a tea-leaf-reading market forecaster. But he argues that basic math suggests asset prices have less room to rise, meaning the long-run outlook is for lower returns ahead. 

"The probability that a 4% withdrawal rate will work in the future is much lower," he says. His new safe starting point: a 3% drawdown. That means that if you've saved $1 million, you're living on $30,000 a year before Social Security and any other sources of income you might have, not $40,000. Ouch. Remember that is just one man's opinion.



William Wombacher, your Central Illinois Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Social Security Disability Specialist. I'll help you!   www.wombacherlaw.com
 
Serving Peoria, East Peoria, Peoria Heights, Pekin, Dunlap, Chillicothe, Morton, Washington, Metamora, Canton, Galesburg, Lacon, Henry, Bloomington, Normal and surrounding cites and counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton and  Knox Counties in Central Illinois.

Investigators Make More Disability Fraud Arrests

This is what makes it tough for honest people that are disabled. There is a misperception that most people seeking disability benefits are dishonest. Several retired New York City police officers and firefighters were charged Tuesday in an alleged Social Security Disability Insurance fraud scheme that authorities said dates back at least 26 years and involves up to 1,000 fraudulent claimants.

Reverse mortgages: Safer, but far from risk-free

Reverse mortgages are loans that people age 62 or older can take out against their home's equity. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the loan doesn't have to be paid back until the borrower either moves out or dies.

Yet, many borrowers have run into problems because they took their payment as a lump sum and spent the cash too freely. They didn't have enough cash to paytheir property taxes, insurance and homeowner's association bills and were forced to default.

New rules, which launched in October, discourage homeowners from taking lump sum payouts by reducing the payment a borrower receives if they take the entire amount immediately. Homeowners who choose the lump sum option could see their payouts reduced by 10% to 18%, depending on underwriting factors. So the payout on a$140,000 reverse mortgage would go down to $125,000 or so if the borrower chooses a lump sum.