Connect with us

Health & Fitness

PUMPING IRONY: Risky Business – Experience Life



– Pumping Irony –

Already struggling before the pandemic struck, assisted-living facilities are hanging on for dear life — just like their residents.

You might call it collateral damage or simply the tipping point for an already fragile industry, but COVID-19 is pushing assisted-living facilities around the country to the brink of bankruptcy, threatening to narrow the housing options for vulnerable seniors.

As Laura Ungar and Jay Hancock report in Kaiser Health News, the industry was struggling even before the virus struck. A building boom in recent years sparked fierce competition and left many companies heavily leveraged. The strong pre-pandemic economy and low unemployment forced facilities to raise wages to attract and retain staff. Some of the industry’s major players had been forced to sell off assets amid rising financial losses.

Dallas-based Capital Senior Living reported losses of $36 million in 2019; it has seen its stock plunge by 80 percent since February. Fewer than half of its 121 facilities boast occupancy levels of 90 percent — a benchmark for profitability. As one investor put it during a recent conference call with company executives, facility closures seem imminent. “Is there a certain rule of thumb,” he asked, “where if occupancy hits a certain point you just say ‘Hey, let’s just shut down this facility, because we’re just going to lose too much money?’”

The virus, of course, has crashed the economy while revealing the industry’s often-lax quality of care. There are more empty rooms, as fewer elderly can afford a monthly rent that averages $4,000, and potential residents who can afford it are understandably wary of facilities that may lack the staffing and personal-care guidelines necessary to protect them from infection. Assisted-living facilities are not subject to the stringent federal regulations that govern nursing homes.

“We have a patchwork of regulation,” Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, told KHN. “In some states, you have more robust protections. In some they are weak and inadequate. For residents, it is the luck of geography.”

And with these facilities in lockdown mode, routine oversight by long-term care ombudsmen and family members is no longer feasible, further heightening anxiety and depressing occupancy rates. “We know when family and friends are visiting, they’re monitoring, seeing the condition of their loved ones,” Grant explained. “They are now without those additional ears and those additional eyes.”

It’s a bleak picture of the future for what was once a thriving industry, one that clearly threatens to limit the options for the elderly and their loved ones who looked to it as an appealing alternative to the nursing home. We can only hope that, when the pandemic finally passes, the heightened scrutiny of practices at these facilities will lead to better government oversight — and a safer, more livable home for the elderly.

Craig Cox
is an Experience Life deputy editor who explores the joys and challenges of healthy aging.

Source link

Continue Reading

Health & Fitness

Are We Too Clean? – Experience Life



All of our soaping and scrubbing may be harming our skin microbiome — and our immunity.

“Five years ago, I stopped showering.” So begins James Hamblin’s Clean: The New Science of Skin, an exploration into our obsession with cleanliness and how it affects our skin’s microbiome.

Hamblin, MD, a preventive-medicine physician and Yale School of Public Health lecturer, wonders if all our soaping up and scrubbing behind the ears — as well as moisturizing and deodorizing — might actually be harming our health.

Our hygiene obsession, he says, is the result of a masterful marketing campaign. Fledgling soap makers took advantage of the meat-packing industry’s bountiful leftover animal fat in the mid-1800s. TV soap operas were later created as ad vehicles. The terrifying concept of B.O. was dreamed up by marketers.

Today, Americans spend $80 billion annually on personal-care and beauty products.

We may be too clean, Hamblin believes — to the point where our immune systems overreact to other perceived threats.

Our skin is one of our first lines of ­immunity defense, explains dermatologist Dr. Monty Lyman in The ­Remarkable Life of the Skin. It’s the Swiss Army knife of organs, he writes: “Skin is both a bar­rier against the terrors of the outside world and — with millions of nerve endings to help us feel our way through life — a bridge into our very being.”

Understanding the skin’s microbiome is a relatively new science. To keep us safe, it’s armed inside with immunity T and B cells and mast cells. The exterior is home to more than 1,000 species of bacteria as well as fungi, viruses, mites, and ectoparasites; some help us, some our system fights.

And some — like the recently discovered and still mysterious archaea microorganisms — are believed to oxidize the ammonia in our sweat and keep our skin acidic, making it a hostile environment to pathogenic bacteria.

“We now know that we have at least as many — and probably more — organisms living in and on us as we have of our own cells,” Lyman notes.

This makes our skin’s microbiome — like our gut’s, with which it constantly communicates — a new self-care frontier. “[It] has the potential to revolutionize medicine,” he adds. Lyman believes “microbiome transplants” could someday be used to treat conditions such as acne and eczema.

So what happened with Hamblin’s experiment in not showering?

“When you shower aggressively, you obliterate the ecosystems. They repopulate quickly, but the species are out of balance and tend to favor the kinds of microbes that produce odor.

“After a while, your ecosystem reaches a steady state, and you stop smelling bad,” he says. “I mean, you don’t smell like rosewater or Axe Body Spray, but you don’t smell like B.O., either. You just smell like a person.

This article originally appeared as “Rethinking “Clean”” in the March 2021 issue of Experience Life.

Source link

Continue Reading

Top Stories