OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Care for elderly

I  was a tad ashamed to see a recent national analysis ranking access and quality of care for each state's elderly citizens was missing our Arkansas as one of the best, while surrounding states ranked among the top four having the best care.

Oklahoma, Missouri and Louisiana all scored outstanding in their overall access to health care in research provided by home-hospital-bed provider SonderCare. Iowa scored the highest.

The study covered the number of nursing homes and respite facilities per 100,000 state residents, nursing home occupancy rates, monthly costs of private and semi-private nursing-home rooms, and the percentage of those homes with zero inspection deficiencies. An overall "Care Score" was calculated based on the metrics.

Finishing second overall, neighboring Oklahoma offers 292 nursing homes per 100,000 residents, along with 55 respite facilities. The occupancy rate is 58 percent, America's second lowest. The monthly cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $5,475, while private rooms average $6,083, making Oklahoma third cheapest in both categories.

Missouri ranked third, with 510 nursing homes and 125 respite homes per 100,000 population. Missouri's occupancy rate of 64 percent is the country's fourth lowest. A monthly semi-private nursing home costs $5,262, which is second cheapest in the country. A private room is around $5,931, considered the lowest.

Fourth-ranked Louisiana has 269 nursing homes per 100,000 residents, along with 81 respite facilities. Nursing homes have an occupancy rate of 68 percent, the seventh lowest. A semi-private nursing-home room runs $5,759 monthly, the fourth cheapest, while a private room costs $6,060, the second most affordable.

Fungus among us

I doubt most valued readers have learned that Candida auris (C. auris), a drug-resistant fungal infection that can be deadly, is on the rise. But we all need to know.

The insidious fungus has been spreading particularly through U.S. health care facilities for about a decade according to a report last March by NBC News, which said the fungus can cause severe illness in people with weakened immune systems. "The number of people diagnosed with infections--as well as number of those who were found through screening to be carrying C. auris--has been rising at an alarming rate since it was first reported in the U.S., researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said."

Dr. Meghan Lyman, chief medical officer in the CDC's Myotic Diseases Branch, said the increases have been in areas of ongoing transmission as well as new regions.

The CDC's warning, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, came as the Mississippi Department of Health was dealing with a growing outbreak.

Since November 2022, at least 12 people had been infected with C. auris with four "potentially associated deaths," the state's epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Byers, was quoted saying.

"Unfortunately, multi-drug-resistant organisms such as C. auris have become more prevalent among our highest-risk individuals, such as residents in long-term-care facilities," Byers said.

The fungus occurs on skin and throughout the body. It's not a threat to healthy people, but about a third of those who become ill die.

CDC researchers analyzed state and local health department data on people infected by the fungus from 2016 through Dec. 31, 2021, as well as those who were "colonized"--those who weren't ill but carried the infection on their bodies with the potential of transmitting it to those possibly more vulnerable.

The number of infections increased by 59 percent, to 756, from 2019 to 2020 and then another 95 percent, to 1,471, in 2021, NBC reported.

Researchers also found that the incidence of people colonized by the fungus increased by 21 percent in 2020 over 2019, and by 209 percent in 2021.

Young prefer bernie

I found few surprises in the recent national Rasmussen Poll that asked, among Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney, who people respected most as a leader.

Trump was named most respected by 42 percent, Biden 21, Obama 17, Nikki Haley 5, Bernie Sanders 5, and Mitt Romney at 3 percent. Hillary Clinton got 2 percent.

As to be expected, partisanship played a key role in the survey, with Republicans supporting Trump far more than Democrats did Biden, Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner explained. "Some 75 percent of Republicans said they respected Trump most as a leader. Among Democrats, however, just 43 percent chose Biden."

Rasmussen's evaluation found older voters preferred Trump compared with younger ones. However, 24 percent of those under 40 were more likely to name Obama than Biden as the leader most respected.

Those under 40 most respected Sanders, the avowed government-controls-our-lives socialist.

This, valued readers, is America's possible future we've been steadily creating. Oy vey!

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].

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