January 17, 2015

Legally Blind Racer Forges Ahead as Musher -- and Reader

Rachael Scdoris is a competitive dogsled racer.

(NewsUSA) - Rachael Scdoris is a competitive dogsled racer and -- thanks to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), the Library of Congress -- an avid reader.

Scdoris, 28, was raised in Bend, Ore., on the back of a sled. Her father spent 36 years as a musher, and Scdoris was determined to follow his trail. The fact that she couldn't see it mattered little. Scdoris was born with a rare vision disorder called congenital achromatopsia, rendering her legally blind with complete color blindness. But her flat, fuzzy world was harder for others to overcome than for Scdoris. She believes a disability is only a state of mind.

"What it really boils down to is people saying, ?Well, if I were visually impaired, I couldn't do it, so clearly you can't.'" Scdoris said. So it was "a major controversy" when, as a teenager, she was allowed to enter the 2003 Iditarod -- the Super Bowl of dogsled racing.

She competed in the Iditarod three times after that. Scdoris also juggles training for her newest competitive pursuit, tandem cycling, with giving commercial sled dog tours and taking care of a kennel the size of a football field.

Last year, Scdoris spoke at the national conference of libraries that partner with NLS to provide books and magazines in audio and braille to people with visual or physical disabilities.

"They told me about all this cool technology they're using to make it easier for their patrons, and I really wanted to take advantage of that again," Scdoris said. "What takes most people about 20 minutes to read would take me an hour or more. To have the book on audio and be able to listen to it faster than most people could read it -- that was a nice thing. I've read a lot more books in the past few months than I did all last year."

Even when she's enjoying her books, though, her furry teammates are not far from her mind.

"They're amazing," Scdoris said. "No matter how tough a run is, they always love it. The definition of teamwork is many individuals working toward a common goal. They're all individuals, but they become such a unit when it's important. I've been doing this my entire life, and I've tried to explain it my entire life, and I really can't. It's a feeling unlike any other."

If you, a friend or a loved one are blind, have low vision or cannot hold a book because of an illness or disability, the free NLS program can help you continue to experience the joy of reading. To learn more, visit www.loc.gov/nls or call 1-888-NLS-READ.

A segment of "National Geographic Today" about Rachel Scdoris, a blind dog sled racer destined for the Iditarod.

January 10, 2015

Home Is Where the Healthcare Is

 Home is where the heart is. Increasingly, the home is also where the healthcare is.

(NewsUSA) - Home is where the heart is. Increasingly, the home is also where the healthcare is.

For various reasons, older people prefer to receive medical care at home, whether it be in their own home or their children's home. Census data show a 67 percent jump between 2000 and 2007 in the number of parents who have moved in with their adult children.

More than 8 million seniors and people with disabilities enjoy the benefits of medical care at home. Services and equipment that enable people to receive care at home include oxygen therapy, power wheelchairs, hospital beds and diabetic supplies. Congress and the White House will consider the value of homecare for patients and taxpayers as they explore avenues for healthcare reform.

Reforming healthcare, especially Medicare, is a top issue in Washington, D.C. Medicare provides health insurance to approximately 43 million Americans aged 65 and older, and to people with permanent disabilities. The spending of Medicare is projected to grow annually by 7.5 percent over the next decade. Medicare trustees project that Medicare's Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2019.

While total Medicare spending skyrockets, the portion devoted to home medical care and equipment remains less than 2 percent. At the same time, homecare holds down costs better than other healthcare segments. Two years of home oxygen therapy costs less than the average Medicare cost for a single day in the hospital, which is more than $5,500.

Providing care to seniors in their homes requires services. Homecare providers serve clients after hours and over weekends to ensure that their patients stay safe -; and out of emergency rooms. Also, homecare providers help vulnerable seniors during emergencies such as ice storms and hurricanes.

As the President and Congress work toward solutions regarding the uninsured and the rising costs of care, the role of home medical care and equipment is likely to be considered as one of the key solutions that will help sustain Medicare and Medicaid.

Tyler J. Wilson, president of the American Association for Homecare, notes, "Homecare will continue to be safe and cost-effective only as long as policy-makers in Washington remember that homecare requires a human touch, including services and personal attention."

For more information on homecare and its services, visit www.aahomecare.org/athome.

January 1, 2015

Homecare Delivers Value—Along With Oxygen and Wheelchairs

(NewsUSA) - Given a choice, most people would choose the comforts of their own home over a stay in a hospital or nursing home. But for many, receiving care at home is not an option.

That's why an overwhelming majority (78 percent) of American voters say they would vote for congressional candidates who would strengthen Medicare coverage for power wheelchairs, oxygen devices, hospital beds and other durable medical equipment and services used in the home, according to a 2007 survey.

"Homecare is both cost-effective and is the preferred choice of consumers," said Tyler J. Wilson, president of the American Association for Homecare. "It is part of the answer to the Medicare and Medicaid funding problems. Yet, members of Congress have proposed deep cuts to Medicare reimbursement for durable medical equipment, on top of previous cuts and other reductions that have yet to take effect. Broad bipartisan voter sentiment calling for better policy may elevate homecare as a policy priority for Congress and the White House."

Providers of durable medical equipment deliver home oxygen therapy, wheelchairs, hospital beds and other items to Americans who require medical care at home. They also deliver independence for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and deliver value to taxpayers since quality medical care at home keeps seniors out of emergency rooms, hospitals and nursing homes.

Homecare is a very cost-effective method for nearly 8 million Americans who depend on homecare for medically required services and equipment. According to studies in medical journals, the cost of home intravenous antibiotic treatment is much lower than what it would be at a hospital. In February 2008, USA Today analyzed federal spending on seniors and found that "long-term care costs per senior have declined slightly in the last three years because of a move away from nursing homes to less-expensive homecare."

Studies have also shown that oxygen therapy reduces mortality and hospitalization rates. And not only does it reduce these rates, but oxygen can be provided to a patient with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who lives at home for one year at less than the average Medicare cost for one day in the hospital, which is about $4,600.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has called for a greater use of home and community-based care because "it's not only where people want to be served, but it's radically more efficient."

For more information on homecare, visit www.aahomecare.org.