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Americans 85 years and older are the fastest growing segment of our population. Never in the history of the world have so many people lived so long.

Are you one of the millions of people caring for an aging parent, spouse or grandparent? Aging Deliberately can guide you through the complex problems and challenges of ensuring appropriate and safe care for your loved ones. We can also help you plan for your own future needs as you grow older.

Seventy percent of us are likely to need some kind of assistance before we died. Yet most of us have no idea of the services that are available, what’s needed, their costs, their quality, how they work together (or not) — or how to make wise choices.

Liz Taylor of Aging Deliberately has 35+ years experience providing expert consultations to families caring for their loved ones. She also assists adults in their mid years to prepare for their own aging while they’re healthy — and have the luxury of time to make thoughtful choices.

Most of us age accidentally, without planning or forethought. At Aging Deliberately, we help people prepare to age successfully — on purpose — because aging well is one of the most important life goals there is.

Join us to learn how to care for others and how to plan for your own future.

Read my latest post

Harmful Tests

Beware of Tests That Can Harm You

Liz Taylor

HarmfulTesting-AgingDeliberatelyEarly in my career, I worked for over ten years as a consumer fraud investigator with the federal government.  It taught me three immutable lessons:

  1. Never buy anything you didn’t initiate over the telephone or online or give to unsolicited charities. The one time I dropped my guard turned out to be a scam. While the nonprofit I gave money to was reputable, it had hired a telemarketing outfit that solicited subscribers with false promises to boost their sales. Lesson re-learned.
  2. When something doesn’t feel right, watch the money: where does it come from and who gets it?
  3. Never believe anything that sounds too good to be true if you don’t hear it from numerous sources.

A case in point: the ads for health screenings that come in the mail or appear on TV that say they can help prevent strokes and heart attacks you don’t even know you’re at risk for.

Thanks to a project of the ABIM Foundation, there is now information to help patients and doctors talk about the overuse of tests and procedures that may not help — and in fact may harm — them.  It’s called, “Choosing Wisely.” Many organizations, like Consumer Reports and National Pubic Radio, are making this information more widely available.

Here’s an example from an NPR program. A church in Virginia (a nonprofit) offered parishioners health screenings for six different conditions, such as stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis, from Life Line Screening, a for-profit. The fee was just under $200.

Are These Tests OK?

While this might sound fairly innocent, there are several issues to consider.

First, several of the tests performed by Life Line are procedures healthy people should avoid, according to several medical experts, either because they can increase a person’s odds of being injured or increase their likelihood of being over treated.

For example, one such test, carotid artery screening, looks for plaque buildup in the neck artery that can lead to stroke. According to Dr. Glen Stream, chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, “the patient is more likely actually to have a stroke (with this test) and possible surgery than if they’d never been screened at all.” The problem, he said, is that many of the findings are false positives – something that may be abnormal but will never hurt you. By discovering it in these tests, the tendency is to aggressively treat it – when waiting is the right treatment option.

Is it all about more business or your health?

A second problem is the environment in which the tests are conducted. A church sponsorship brings instant credibility to the tests, whether or not it’s warranted. When they’re performed in collaboration with hospitals or surgical centers, follow-up treatments can mean more business.

Life Line Screening, of course, denies these naysayers. So you be the judge. “When information comes in the form of an advertisement or promotion, regardless of the source, be skeptical,” says Dr. John Santa, medical director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.

“Realize from a health point of view, if this was a really good and important thing to do, (a company) probably wouldn’t need to be advertising and promoting it.”

Before you spend money on screening, talk to your doctor about whether a test is right for you. And, even then, think twice: will the doctor gain financially from giving you a test more than you’re likely to benefit? For more information and excellent examples, go to Consumer Health Choices.

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