REFLECTIONS: On Social Security

Interesting Stuff – 26 July 2010

Until about a year ago, I wrote a weekly Elder News column for this blog with short takes and links to web items related to aging. Sometimes I miss that feature so today, here are a handful of things – mostly unrelated to aging - that have recently caught my attention.

The Speed of Change
British mystery writer P.D. James. who will celebrate her 90th birthday next week, spoke to the Montreal Gazette about the “horrifying” pace of technology change which, she says, elders cannot keep up with. Not all the change is bad, however. James thinks teaching children about sex at younger ages than in her youth is a good thing for kids. But, she notes, it's not so good for mystery writers:

"Dear old Agatha Christie had 'A' murder 'B' because 'A' was having an affair and thought 'B' would tell,” says Dame P.D. James. “Now, of course, people write about their affairs in the Sunday newspapers.”

Read more of her interview here.

Thinking Plants
A Polish scientist, presenting findings at a meeting in Prague earlier this year, says his work shows that plants transmit information from leaf to leaf in a way that is similar to human nervous systems.

“When we shone the light for on the plant for one hour and then infected it [with a virus or with bacteria] 24 hours after that light exposure,” said Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, “it resisted the infection. But when we infected the plant before shining the light, it could not build up resistance...”

Another plant scientist, Professor Christine Foyer, a plant from the University of Leeds, said Karpinski's study "took our thinking one step forward.”

"Plants have to survive stresses, such as drought or cold, and live through it and keep growing," she told BBC News. "This requires an appraisal of the situation and an appropriate response - that's a form of intelligence.”

More detail on this story at the BBC website.

Astonishing Unemployment Map
If you include the underemployed and those who have given up looking for a job, about 31 million are, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of work in the U.S. The astonishing map in the YouTube video below, titled "The Decline: The Geography of a Recession," was created by labor writer LaToya Egwuekwe. It shows the growth of unemployment county by county from January 2007 until May 2010.

You can see a larger version of the map animation at this website.

Hospital Delirium
Eighty-four-year-old Justin Kaplan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, became delirious in a hospital last year while being treated for pneumonia.

“For hours in the hospital, he said, he imagined despotic aliens, and he struck a nurse and threatened to kill his wife and daughter.”

Doctors call it hospital delirium and the astonishing fact, according to the American Geriatrics Society is that it affects one-third of patients older than 70.

“A delirious patient happens almost every day,” said Dr. Manuel N. Pacheco, director of consultation and emergency services at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. He treated Mr. Kaplan, whom he described as “a very learned, acclaimed person,” for whom “this is not the kind of behavior that’s normal.

“People don’t talk about it, because it’s embarrassing,” said Dr. Manuel N. Pacheco, director of consultation and emergency services at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “They’re having sheer terror, like their worst nightmare.”

Read more at The New York Times.

Nice Political Zinger
Our American politicians aren't known for their senses of humor, but there was a rare exhibit of quick wit yesterday on Fox New Sunday, hosted by Chris Wallace. While discussing the Shirley Sherrod furor, this exchange took place between former House leader Newt Gingrich and former presidential candidate, Howard Dean:

GINGRICH: If the Obama administration is this afraid of Glenn Beck, how do they deal with the Iranians?

DEAN: There may be some similarities, Newt.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jerry Rasmussen: Elizabeth Cotton's Banjo


My mother, bless her heart, experienced hospital delirium during her last two hospitalizations and three SNF stays. Scared the hell out of her kids.
That map of spreading unemployment should scare just about everybody.

Thanks for this interesting post.

That map is truly scary!

I love P. D James and she is spot on about teaching sex in schools.

The most fascinating part of the map was the information that the middle of the country didn't suffer like the Coasts and that the closer you lived to either Coast the worse it was.

Hospital delirium sounds frightening.

I forgot to add that the retort by Howard Dean was classic. That's thinking fast.

My 76 year old sister, sweet of nature, quiet, unassuming, experienced more than a week of hospital delirium less than a month ago. Surgeons had so many broken bones to mend that she was the 8th backup patient and had to wait two days before surgery. By then she had done so much damage by ripping out her IV's and catheter that she required blood transfusions, and constant supervision.
There were quite a few hospital rooms with notices attached to the doors advising nurses that combative patients resided within.
Weak, injured elderly patients become amazingly strong when in the grips of delirium.
It is indeed a nightmare for all involved, but especially for the patient!

I had never heard of hospital delirium until I read the story linked above and was shocked at the apparent prevalence of it.

It's fascinating and awful all at once.

I wondered if over medication causes hospital delirium and looked to see what Merck Medical Manuals had to say:


The short answer is yes but other things can also bring it on.

Revealing post about hospital delirium. This is my first encounter with the term but not the condition. It sounds what several acquaintances' relatives and two of my elderly aunts experienced (not at the same time). I'm convinced that changes in medications, increasing dosages and varying times of administering the meds played a role.

I could be wrong, but aren't the middle states that weren't effected as quickly by the recession more self-sustained because they're less crowded?

My mom didn't have delirium but when she was in the hospital for a few weeks she cried almost 24/7 and didn't know why.

I was interested in and intrigued by everything in this post. Thank you, Ronni.

My aunt (94) had one of these delirium episodes just a few months ago, the day after she was admitted to hospital. My cousin and I are both totally convinced that meds were to blame. Plus dehydration exacerbated it b/c she needs reminding to drink water and the nurses were too busy to notice that she wasn't drinking enough.
I'm adding some more wording to my 'living will' as a result of this news item. Thanks, Ronni!

Excellent info!!! I have missed this feature!!!!

Love these articles. Keep em coming.

I LOVE seeing the interesting stuff you find! Thanks for bringing it back! :)

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