Sunday, December 17, 2017

New Study Suggests Non-Invasive Treatment for Autism

Following the report of the results of a new research study, scientists are looking at the possibility of treating children with autism with neuromodulation to help correct social deficits.

Research has long established that there are specific areas of the brain responsible for problem behaviors in people with autism.  There has been a great deal of controversy over what implications this information might have for treatment.  Electrical stimulation has been proposed but this has been resisted because treatment should be conducted as early as possible, meaning many of the individuals you would be treating would be children.  Other opposition to such treatment comes from the fact that the primary areas that would be targeted lie deep within the brain and cannot be reliably reached. 

New research from the O'Donnell Brain Institute has demonstrated that a specific part of the cerebellum that has been believed to contribute coordinating movement is actually important for social behaviors in people with autism. This groundbreaking research not only establishes a more accessible target for brain stimulation but it also can help correct social impairments, one of the major areas of difficulties for those with autism.  

While some say this treatment would only be effective with those treated at the very earliest ages, the researchers don’t agree. Using a mouse model, they conducted additional research which seemed to indicate that neuromodulation restored social behaviors even in adult mice. This result suggests individuals with autism still might benefit from brain stimulation intervention  even if treatment is not provided until later in life.

Dr. Peter Tsai, the director of the research study, said, "This is potentially quite a powerful finding,  From a therapeutic standpoint, this part of the cerebellum is an enticing target. And although neuromodulation would not cure the underlying genetic cause of a person's autism, improving social deficits in children with autism could make a huge impact on their quality of life."


Stoodley, C. J., D’Mello, A. M., Ellegood, J., Jakkamsetti, V., Liu, P., Nebel, M. B., Gibson,J. M., Kelly, E., Meng, F.. Cano, C. A., Pascual, J. M., Mostofsky, S. H.. Lerch, J. P. & Tsai, P. T., (2017).  Altered cerebellar connectivity in autism and cerebellar-mediated rescue of autism-related behaviors in mice. Nature Neuroscience, 20 (12): 1744.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Unsynchronized Brain Waves During Sleep Make Us Forget

Likened to a tennis serve where the ball toss and the racket swing must coordinate
perfectly to score an ace, overnight brain waves must sync properly for remembering
to occur, a new study finds.  As with everything, it’s all about timing.  While slow
and fast brain waves are integrated and balanced in younger adults, when we age
slow waves that occur during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep fail to fully
coordinate with quick electrical bursts known as spindles.

Using tennis terminology, the slow waves are like the toss of the ball, while the fast
waves are like the swing of the racket. If either of these two components are off in
terms of rhythm, the serve will either travel short or long in terms of distance, or go
out of bounds or the racket might even fail to make contact with the ball completely.
In sleep, this mistiming prevents older adults from being able to save new memories.  
These findings explain way older adults often seem able to better remember things
that occurred in the past rather than those that recently occurred.  The study also
suggests that this problem is the result of atrophy of the medial frontal cortex, an
area in the brain responsible for deep sleep which is restorative.  

The good news from this study is that there is now hope for a potential treatment
that could help with memory loss in aging adults.  New studies are being undertaken
to examine the effects of applying electrical stimulation to the frontal lobe of the
brain in an effort to synchronize slow waves with spindles   According to the studies
senior author Matthew Walker, “By electrically boosting these nighttime brainwaves,
we hope to restore some degree of healthy deep sleep in the elderly and those with
dementia, and in doing so, salvage aspects of their learning and memory,"


Helfrich, R. F., Mander, B. A., Jagust, W. J., Knight, R. T. & Walker, M. P. (2017). Old Brains Come Uncoupled in Sleep:  Slow Wave - Spindle Synchrony, Brain Atrophy and Forgetting.. Neuron.  

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Mental Health Myth: Aging Leads to Depression

Myth: Everyone gets depressed as they grow older. It’s just a natural part of the aging process.

Fact: Depression is not a normal part of the aging process. According to the CDC, most seniors are not depressed. Estimates suggest that only about 1 to 5 percent of those living in the community are suffering from depression. However, these figures rise to 13.5 percent for those requiring home healthcare and 11.5 percent of seniors in the hospital. This is still a far cry from equaling the majority of older adults.

It is important to understand that due to changes in roles, decreases in social networks, loss of a spouse, relatives and friends, lack of transportation, loneliness, and change to living environment among other factors, seniors can have an increased risk of depression. However, it is not a biological certainty that older individuals will become depressed.

The belief that depression is a normal part of aging makes it more likely that people will minimize it when it does occur.  This may include the individual themselves and friends and family members all of whom may think treatment isn’t needed if it normal or there is no treatment that will be effective.   Today, increased knowledge and better technology have provided strategies that effectively address and control depression in seniors. There are treatment options specifically developed for older individuals that can help

If an older adult does experiences depression, they need the same support as anyone else. If you are concerned about someone you care about who is older and appears to be suffering from depression, talk to them about getting help.  Offer to accompany them to see a healthcare provider and choose one that specializes in geriatrics.  With the right care, those seniors who do suffer from depression can be cured and can continue to live happy, fulfilling lives.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Five Facts About Senior Loneliness and Isolation that will Shock You

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, almost 30% of those age 65 and older in the U.S live alone. As people get older, the chances they will live alone increases. In addition to this difficulty, according to the AARP, a greater number of older adults do not have children. This translates into fewer relatives to visit and help care for seniors. Living alone does not automatically result in social isolation. However, it is the most significant predisposing factor. The following five facts about senior loneliness and isolation will help you stay informed about this major problem.
  1. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness negatively affect both long term physical and mental health.  Loneliness has been tied to chronic high blood pressure, lung disease, heart disease, arthritis, impaired mobility, depression and anxiety.  Awareness and self-monitoring of physical health and mood can be an important step in getting the help needed.

  2. LGBT seniors are two times more likely to be single, childless, estranged from their biological families and socially isolated than other seniors.  Stigma and discrimination serve as major barriers to support and community involvement.  However, there are increasing numbers of community groups and online resources for aiding these seniors in avoiding social isolation and loneliness.

  3. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness contribute to decreases in mental capacity and increases in the risk of dementia. Since we are social beings, failure to meet our social needs is associated with poorer mental performance and faster cognitive decline.

  4. Social isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse.The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that research shows a link between loneliness and social isolation and elder abuse.  It is unclear as to the exact manner in which this occurs.  It is possible that those who are isolated and lonely are more likely to fall victim due to the desire for companionship.  It is also possible that abusers isolate potential victims to prevent discovery.

  5. Loneliness in seniors can actually lead to others purposely isolating them.  This seems like a contradiction.  We would like to believe that when we have a friend or relative who is suffering from loneliness we would try to find some way to help, such as visiting with the person.  Yet research has shown that loneliness breeds loneliness.  When we spend time around someone who is lonely and depressed, we may find we begin to  feel the same way.  Unfortunately, the tendency in such a situation is to further isolate the individual in order to prevent threats to our social cohesion in the form of social exclusion, belonging and marginalization.   

Have you or a friend or family member suffered from loneliness or social isolation during the aging process? What, in your opinion, is the most helpful strategy for reducing this sense of loneliness and  isolation? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Mental Health Myth: People with Mental Difficulties are Violent

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Myth: People with mental disorders are violent or dangerously unpredictable and volatile

Truth: This falsehood causes more difficulties for those with mental health issues than any other.  It is one of the main causes of communities refusing to approve treatment facilities within their borders and advocates for greater latitude in involuntary commitment and who is able to involuntarily commit someone.  Movies, TV, books, games and the media often tell us the inaccurate, stigmatizing tale that people experiencing mental illness are violent and dangerous.  

And many people believe it.  A recent national public opinion survey showed that a large proportion of individuals believe that that there is a strong association between mental disorders and violence.  Surveys have determined that over 60 percent of American respondents believed that those suffering from schizophrenia were likely to act violently towards others and over 32 percent believed the same about those with depressions.  

Yet the large majority of those living with a mental health difficulty are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Research has shown that only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts committed are carried out by individuals suffering from a mental disorder.  The fact is that those with serious mental health problems are actually 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime compared to others. It is quite likely that you know at least one person with a mental health disorder without realizing it. A large percentage of individuals with mental health issues are productive members of our society.  

Michelle Pruett Nostheide, director of public education at the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). Says, “In my position, I see outrageous marketing campaigns, movie trailers, commercials, even children’s toys, that paint an unfair picture of people with mental illness, or use mental illnesses as a source of ridicule or humor.  .“People that know someone with a mental illness or have one themselves are offended or saddened by these portrayals, but the real damage is done when people who have no experience with mental health accept these stereotypes and pass them on.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

Do You Know the Truth About Mental Health?

Do you know the difference between a mental health myth and fact? Learn the truth about common mental health myths.

Myth: Mental illness will never affect me.

Mental health problems are actually extremely very common.  While not everyone will develop a diagnosable disorder, everyone experiences issues with mental health that are milder versions of a disorder either in duration or severity, subclinical symptoms of a disorder, or manifestations that closely resemble symptoms.  Everyone is equally predisposed to developing mental health issues and whether they do or not is largely dependent on what they encounter in their environment.  

The vulnerability to developing mental health difficulties the types of difficulties we may evidence, are reflections of what it is to be human.  We have feelings about other people and ourselves, perceptions about the world in which we live and the way it operates, individual characteristics that make us each unique such as personality, and ways of relating to those around us.  Each of these areas makes our lives richer but also provides room for problems to emerge.  

Facts: Statistics from 2014 show how common mental health problems are.

  • One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder
  • 7% of adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode
  • 17.2% experienced minor depression
  • Globally, one in four people experienced a mental health problem
  • One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
  • One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression that significantly interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • One in 20 Americans experienced a substance use disorder or used substances to the degree that they interfered with at least one major life activity
  • Among those who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5% had a co-occurring mental illness
  • Four percent of Americans experienced serious suicidal thoughts.
  • There were 41,149 suicides in the United States, approximately 113 suicides each day or one every 13 minutes.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Power Really Does Go to Your Head - Literally

It’s commonly said about people who have reached the top of their field or otherwise wield a great deal of control that they have let power go to their heads.  While this is usually meant figuratively, a new study conducted at Berkeley suggests the saying may be more realistic than otherwise thought.

In depth research conducted in the lab and then generalized to real life settings has shown that several those who hold powerful positions are more impulsive, less aware of risk and less able to see another person’s perspective.  These characteristics are characteristic of those who have experienced brain damage caused by traumatic brain injury.

Power has been found to significantly influence empathy.  In particular, having a high level of social power appears to make people less emotionally responsive to the suffering of others.  They also don’t find the emotional reactions of others who are in pain to be important or meaningful.  Those who hold a great degree of power experience less distress and compassion and more emotion regulation when faced with someone who discloses that they are suffering. 

One explanation that has been given for these findings is that when people attain power they often lose the awareness of what got them there.  A big part of that is appreciation for others efforts in their climb and seeing the world through another’s eyes is related to that.  Often people in power believe that acknowledging that they had help getting to where they are will weaken their power base.  Similarly, those who were given a hand in obtaining power are frequently the least likely to help others on their attempt to rise to the top. 

Neuropsychologists have determined that powerful people fail to mimic others in social interactions.  This is important because this is how our conversations work.  When someone we are talking to laughs we laugh too.  Likewise, when someone expresses sadness we show similar emotions.  The failure to do so leaves the other person feeling misunderstood and unimportant to the person, to whom they are speaking. 

Studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation which measures which parts of the brain are firing found that the neural pathways that cause us to mirror someone else fired strongly in those who aren’t powerful but not in powerful individuals.  Powerful people were also less likely to put effort into increasing their emotional responses to others even when instructed to do so compared to low power individuals.  

It may be the case that those who first attain power, believe that showing a great deal of compassion for others will be viewed as weak so they purposely try to inhibit any empathy they might feel.  In the same vein, powerful people may believe that seeing from someone else’s point of view or being influenced by another’s perspective may be interpreted as If others have the power.  Then over time, these intentional efforts may lead to damage to structures and functions of the brain involved in relating to other people and forming meaningful connections.

 So those whose power has gone to their heads may have suffered damage that cannot be corrected.  However, it may also be the case that these individuals wouldn’t want to change it even if they could.  It can be argued that for those who have to make life or death decisions, low empathy is beneficial.  Yet, this research makes you wonder, at what cost?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Using Technology to Ease Aging Parent's Lonliness

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More people are living longer lives than we have seen previously.  This is in part to do such factors as better knowledge about nutrition, improved medical treatment, increased physical activity and the overall awareness of health related factors.  Yet as people live longer they often become lonely and isolated, a widespread problem among seniors.  
Often there is the loss of a spouse, family members and good friends, the loss of abilities such as hearing or vision decline, or the ability to drive, less opportunities for social interactions and social events, and after retirement and children become adults with their own families, the loss of a goal or purpose in life.  Most seniors prefer to remain in their homes when possible.  
Overall, the aging senior often feels an absence of fun, excitement and connections with their family and peers.  All these factors can lead to increasing loneliness resulting in depression.  Relatives who live far away may want to help but just don’t know how.
Consider teaching your relative to use technology as a means of maintaining connections.  A computer with a camera can form an instant connection to anyone in the family (albeit that means there may be added pressure on you to look well groomed which non-video communication doesn’t require!) Even someone who has never touched a computer before can learn if they’re willing.  
For one of my parents anniversaries my brothers and I bought them a very simple machine that was just for email.  My father couldn’t use it due to his arthritis and my mother, who was in her 80’s at the time,  announced she would never touch the thing and we needed to take it back.  
One of my brothers set it up anyway and we just left it there for a day or so.  My mom called just wondering how hard it was to operate, not that she intended to do so of course.  We just had a general discussion about how easy it was which I kept short then shifted topic to her grandchildren.  Next she called one of my brothers for a similar purpose and he took it to the next level encouraging her and convincing her she’d have no trouble learning to use it.  Another day or two went by and my mom called my other brother and asked him to come over and just show her how to use it so she could see how it worked.  The final step was when my niece went over and went through everything with her step by step.  
The next thing we knew, emails were flying fast and furiously, to the point we at times regretted the gift.  This was largely due to the fact that while she learned how to email she didn’t appreciate that when an email arrived somewhere this didn’t set off an alarm where we were or send some sort of nanobot out to find us, retrieve us and make use sit and write her back (this was before the ease of mobile technology).  
It also didn’t cross her mind that any of us were doing anything at the time and might not be able to get back to her ASAP.  So she would email one child and upon not receiving an immediate response call one of the other children to say how worried she was having them call child number one.  She then emailed child number three since she’d just spoken to child number two and as, in the meantime she had received a reply from errant child number one, upon not receiving a reply from child number three called child number one about number three.
This went on in various combinations through the day and it never completely abated though the calls stopped and she just used guilt if you didn’t reply immediately.  Now my mother is the queen of the “i”  -  iphone, ipad, ipod with every other computer based item known to mankind.  She is far better with computers than I am and despite explaining I don’t have an “i”anything, is horrified I don’t “do facetime”.  
My mom was never tech savvy at all. Nor did she have any interests to become tech savvy.   Yet when she learned she could keep in touch with her family using it she was completely on board and did what it took to learn how to operate it.  Some people may assume that seniors aren’t capable of accomplishing things in which they don’t engage.  Yet  it may be more a matter of whether something benefits them than ability.  
If you can show them how technology can get them something they want such as feeling more connected to friends and family and  feeling less lonely and isolated then you may find they are quite adept at learning the needed skills.  Just beware.  Once the genie is out of the bottle you can’t force him back in and I guarantee he will be visiting you frequently with emails, techs and requests for facetime!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Compound in Marijuana May Help Treat Schizophrenia

New research suggests that a compound found in Marijuana may help treat schizophrenia.  Cannabidiol (CBD), found in the Cannabis plant may have anti-psychotic properties.  This compound is different from the main ingredient in marijuana, THC, which can produce psychotic reactions and increase the severity of schizophrenia symptoms.  

The symptoms of schizophrenia include Positive, Negative and Cognitive Symptoms.  Positive symptoms which are excesses in behavior or perceptions include hallucinations and delusions, while negative symptoms are deficits of behavior or perceptions such apathy, lethargy and the lack of motivation.  Cognitive symptoms involve the inability to fully understand information or use it productively, which includes problems with decision making,  the inability to sustain attention and the ability to keep information in memory and use it immediately.  Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are important because they are most closely related to the ability to function normally in everyday life.  

Despite a great deal of research intended to permit the development of pro-cognitive drugs for schizophrenia, no cognitive enhancer is currently available. While some present research suggesting that recently developed atypical anti-psychotics benefit cognitive deficits, this finding has remained controversial.  Many believe the effect of atypical anti-psychotics on cognitive symptoms is due primarily to their effect on negative symptoms.  Some studies have shown that both the typical and atypical anti-psychotics actually induce cognitive deficits in both healthy individuals and those with schizophrenia.  

Now researchers have determined that use of CBD, may help decrease the cognitive symptoms found in individuals with schizophrenia which are often left after treatment with anti-psychotics alleviate the positive and some of the negative symptoms. Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany, examined 39 patients diagnosed with Schizophrenia (Leweke, Mueller, Lange & Rohleder, 2016).  Nineteen received an anti-psychotic medication while the rest were treated with CBD.   Results indicated that both groups improved across all categories of symptoms and that the two groups did not differ on strength of the effects.  The benefit of CBD was particularly evident in the absence of most side effects that result from anti-psychotic medication (read abstract).

Anti-psychotic medications have long been known to cause serious side effects which sometimes are irreversible.  These include movement disorders and reduced motivation and pleasure. The newest generation of anti-psychotic medication often leads to  significant weight gain and an increased risk of developing  diabetes.  While not usually life threatening these side effects frequently prove to be  long major obstacles to treatment compliance.

Researchers have warned that simply smoking or otherwise ingesting marijuana will not decrease psychotic symptoms and may make them worse.  This is in due to the predominance of THC relative to CBD found in the whole plant.  This means that psychotic symptoms may be worsened by use of the entire plant.   


Leweke, F. M., Mueller, J. K., Lange, B., & Rohleder, C. (2016). Therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in psychosis. Biological psychiatry, 79(7), 604-612.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Does the Color of Your Nightlight Affect Your Sleep?

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Bright, white light can improve your mood, give you energy, make you feel more alert and less tired. This is great during the daytime but after sundown exposure to these type of lights that are similar to natural light can keep you from sleeping.  One of the ways artificial light does this is by suppressing melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone.  Since most people don’t go to sleep as soon as the sun sets, it’s important to use proper lighting to decrease your body’s natural response to daylight. The color of light you are exposed to at night can also affect your mood. Combined with the effects of good or poor sleep, the effect of light on mood can be significant.

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Bulbs that emit light from longer wavelengths such as the red and orange spectrum are more likely to induce sleep. Incandescent bulbs, the type people use most frequently in their homes. These soft white bulbs are usually inexpensive and provide a warm light.  After red light bulbs, these are the best to use in your bedroom to induce natural sleep. Red bulbs are considered the best for sleep.  Use red or pink bulbs in your bedroom in nightlights or reading lamps used at night or right before bedtime.  Green light, another long wave light, can also induce sleep. Make sure to switch sleep inducing bulbs with those that are associated with wakefulness right before going to sleep, or use them in lamps not used during the day. If they are used when getting up in the morning, it will take longer to feel awake and alert and will increase the likelihood you will hit the snooze button.

Halogen bulbs give off the whitest light and are closest to daylight.  They should be avoided after dark.
Compact fluorescent bulbs are popular because they last about ten times larger than regular bulbs but give
off blue light which can interfere with sleep.   Light-emitting diode bulbs use about 75 percent less energy
than traditional bulbs but they also emit more blue light than traditional bulbs.  If you use these bulbs, it's
best to turn them off at least two hours before sleep. While this may seem inconvenient there are now a
selection of smart lights that you can set to automatically shift from brighter blue light to a warmer color a
few hours before bed.

Light from a laptop or tablet is also white or bluish white white so using these devices close to bedtime or
when you wake up during the night can also inhibit sleep. Cell phones can also be a problem as, although
their light is dimmer, you use them closer to your eyes than larger screens. While computers and cell
phone activity also inhibit sleep by causing the brain to remain active, you can decrease the overall effect
on sleep in where and how you use them. Don't play highly arousing games or engage in other activities
that are challenging and require a lot of thought or that make you feel agitated or excited. If you must play
games at all, try something that you find soothing, that doesn't take a lot of concentration, attention or
effort. Switch your computer or mobile device to nighttime display, which most laptops and mobile
devices now come with, and which emit less intense light and light from longer frequencies. Also make
sure you do not use these devices in bed and ideally not in your bedroom so this area of your home will
become associated in your brain only with sleep.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Negative Word Can Make Rice Mold

A teacher in Brazil focuses on teaching her students the importance of treating others positively.  She demonstrated this lesson using two cups of rice.  She had the students sit in a circle around the cups and asked them to say negative things to one of the cups, such as “you are useless” and “you are stupid”.   The teacher asked the class to say positive things to the other cup such as “you can accomplish anything”, and “you are smart”.  A few days later the rice in the ”positive” cup had fermented normally while the rice in the “negative” had turned black with mold.  One student had an insightful conclusion:
“The damage of negativity is bigger than we can imagine … there are two ways to say things, the right way is to praise the good side of others with the eyes of the heart, not the eyes we see.”   
Research conducted since the 1960’s has shown that people come to identify and behave in ways that reflect how others label them. In adolescents and adults labeling and treating someone as criminally deviant encourages the development of deviant behavior.  This type of labeling also has negative consequences because others are likely to be biased against the person because of the label. Critical and negative comments also effect self -esteem, how effective someone feels they are in important areas of their lives such as work or school, parenting and relationships.

Negative comments and labels given to children has been shown to  decrease expectations and goals for what the child can achieve not only in the child but in the adults in their life such as teachers and parents.  Negativity and criticism also lowers a child’s self-esteem and self-image and harms their relationship with their peers.  The longer this type of treatment goes on the more likely a child will assume the behavior that others expect for them until the comments lead to such things as self-sabotage and become a self -fulfilling prophecy.

The experiment described above is a recreation of work conducted by Masaru Emoto who carried out a similar experiment with rice.  He found similar results for rice that was told positive things and rice that was told negative things.  A third cup of rice which he ignored was found to actually start to rot a few days later.  These experiments have been conducted by thousands of people who have recorded their results and shared them on YouTube. 

Other researchers have shown the same outcome when having people just think positive and negative things toward cups of rice from a remote distance which those who recorded the findings blind to which cups of rice were which.  This classic experiment underscores the importance of each of us paying more attention to the words and emotions we are displaying toward others every day.  As the student said, there are always more than one way say something to another person and the effects of negative words aimed at others is greater than we can ever know.  If negative comments and ignoring molds and rots rice, just imagine what such treatment can do to people’s emotional and physical well-being.  Our words, thoughts and behavior toward other matters.
See Dr. Emoto’s Rice Experiment here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Is Personal Protection Insurance Right for Your Financial Worries?

In today’s economy, fears about job loss or not having enough savings to cover the bills in case of being unable to work for any reason are common. As a result the number of individuals obtaining Personal Protection Insurance (PPI) has increased in the UK significantly.

What Does PPI Stand For?

PPI products are insurance policies that will pay your loans or credit card bills should you find yourself in a situation such that you are unable to earn income. This includes illness, injuries, accidents and loss of employment. While purchased by the individual, should a PPI claim be filed, benefits are paid directly to the company owed. Most policies cover minimum payments for a specific amount of time (usually 12 months).

While individuals who have purchased such insurance may experience a sense of security related to the possibility of unpredictable loss of wages, care should be taken when purchasing the product to make sure you are eligible for coverage. It is also crucial to ascertain that what you are assuming is included is actually covered. In recent years, it has come to light that many people were mis-sold policies and when they attempted to make a PPI claim they were informed their situation was not covered, leaving them without the means to pay their bills.

Make Sure You Aren’t Mis-sold PPI Products

Thousands of people a day in the UK are discovering when attempting to make PPI claims that situations that they assumed were included in their policy were not covered due to either personal ineligibility or inadequate coverage. There are a number of ways people may be taken advantage of when purchasing PPI insurance that they don’t become aware of until making a PPI claim. Be sure you are aware of the following relevant criteria related to PPI eligibility:

PPI is always voluntary – it is not mandatory to purchase PPI products when applying for a loan, credit card or mortgage.

Not everyone can purchase PPI – Students, pensioners or those who are self-employed are generally not eligible for PPI coverage.

Conditions existing when sold the coverage effects eligibility – Those who are unemployed, have a pre-existing medical condition or are working less than 16 hours a week when they purchase PPI products are not eligible for coverage.

PPI may already be included - PPI payments may be embedded in your loan or credit card contract without your knowledge, in which case additional insurance is not necessary.

New Rules Regarding Miss-sold PPI and Filing Complaints

The High Court has established new rules increasing the number of people who can file PPI complaints. These rules also require Banks to contact all PPI customers to inform them that they may have been mis-sold their insurance and could be eligible for compensation. The amount of compensation awarded depends on the cost of your policy and how long you’ve been paying for your coverage.

Individuals can obtain information through the PPI Claim Company as to how to file complaints themselves. In addition, many companies offer a no win - no fee contract which requires that you are awarded a certain amount of compensation or else the services the company provided to file your complaint are free.

 Make sure to always read the fine print of any PPI policy you intend to buy and don’t sign until another knowledgeable party has reviewed it for possible problems regarding your ability to file a PPI claim should circumstances warrant it.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Where Are All of These HIPAA Violations Coming From?

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It seems like a pretty easy thing to avoid - HIPAA Violations.  Don’t gossip about patients, show records or disclose private information to those who shouldn’t see them and make sure you have the proper set up on your home computer or phone if either are used to access medical records.

If it’s really this simple (with a few other guidelines), then why was there in excess of $22,855,300 paid out in fines for HIPAA violations last year alone, a number of which were over $1,000,000?  Plus, this doesn’t include other remediation efforts for violations where it was determined a fine was not warranted.  So what’s going on?

Avoiding HIPAA violations means commitment to a number of things to prevent breaches and ensure appropriate confidentiality.   Of these, one of the most important boils down to training.  Now that we have been held responsible for following HIPAA regulations and documenting appropriately, some organizations that have been doing this for four of five years may have  become complacent in ensuring everyone in the organization knows what the need to in order to satisfy HIPAA regulations.  
One of the most frequently cited HIPAA violation is the failure to train  all individuals who have access to patient information.  This includes — interns, volunteers, contractors and other employees.  One problem is the failure to understand that all employees who can access medical information even when there is no plausible reason for them to do so must be fully trained on HIPAA compliance and avoiding breaches.  

The best way to avoid a breach based on lack of training is the train everyone.  It might seem inconvenient to train absolutely everyone with access to the ePHI in your company, but try to view it as an investment.  The time you put in now will pay off big when the auditors come your way.  Deciding your time frame for training lets you train in logical groups you choose to maintain the highest level of operation with the remaining employees.

Once you receive notification of an audit there is no time to do remedial work with every employee and stop gap measures are usually detectable during an audit.  This also leaves staff feeling anxious about information they have barely had time to learn which can lead to mistakes.  And where HIPAA compliance is concerned, mistakes can be costly.  

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