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October 2013 California Senior Legislature
The 33rd annual session of the California Senior Legislature got off to a formal start Tuesday morning with opening ceremonies in the Assembly Chambers of the State Capital Building in Sacramento. Debra Bowen, Secretary of State, administered the Oath of Office "to protect the constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic" to the Senators and Assembly Members.
The morning was filled with presentations by political luminaries and experts in areas of interest to elders. Hubert Humphrey III discussed the work of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in both protecting seniors from financial fraud, and in providing accurate education on senior oriented financial planning. Mr Humphrey looked and sounded enough like his famous father to jiggle the memory of many of the legislators who lived through the tumultuous 60s and 70s times of social change.
The most impressive presentation of the morning came from Dr. William Shankle, a neurologist specializing in the treatment and management of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. He offered a perspective on early detection and management of the conditions that ultimately lead to severe and debilitating dementia that was hopeful and practical. It turns out that even with the genetic markers, and first sign of Alzmeimer's, living a highly healthy life style in term of exercise, diet, a highly active mental life, good socialization and avoidance of stress can slow down the advent of dementia. I was so impressed by the new data supporting this approach to the potential epidemic of Alzheimer's related dementia that I will report on Dr. Shankle's work in some detail on the Senior Center Web Site in the future.
I spent the afternoon in a long meeting of the Senate Health Committee, reviewing two important pieces of legislation related to the rights of terminally ill people to receive pain management medication and other palliative measures under their physician's care, and to make the choice to terminate extended suffering by choice, with a physicians assistance. My committee reported both of these bills out the the floor of the Senate for consideration. I will report further on their progress on the Senate Floor, and in the Assembly.
Spent a long Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning session reviewing the Assembly originated health related bills, and then reconciling recommended bill on the floor of the Senate.
A very interesting approach to elder health is a bill to include one of several simple "cognitive evaluation" instruments to be administered when a Medicare client sees their primary care Doctor for their annual wellness checkup which is now mandated to be provided free of charge under the "Covered California" version of the Affordable Care Act. This fits well with the latest research findings that I reported earlier about how important early detection of cognitive decline is, relative to lifestyle changes that can hold off the development of dementia.
Another important bill would encourage the California Department of Aging to develop a data base of research based effective approaches to maintaining high functioning, and good health well into our elder years, and using the apparatus of Senior Centers to distribute that information.
I am excited about both of these approaches, because they identify how much elders can do to manage the quality of their lives and health by making important choices about exercise, diet, socialization and community engagement. I like this kind of thinking. It moves some of the emphasis from "what kind of special help to elders need?" to "how can we manage the quality of our own lives as we age?". While both are important, there is much more that a culture of healthy elders can do for themselves, and more that we as healthy and wise elders can offer to our communities.