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How phone and tablet games are making autism diagnosis easier

A new study has found that autism can be diagnosed in a faster and inexpensive way by allowing children to play games on smartphones and tablets. Researchers from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland used fun iPad games to track players’ hand movements. The information gathered by examining gameplay patterns helped them identify children who may have autism.

The research shows how technology offers the possibility of a less intrusive method to diagnose the childhood neurodevelopmental disorder. Lead study author Dr. Jonathan Delafield-Butt, a senior lecturer in child development at the university, called the findings “potentially a major breakthrough.”

He stressed the importance of detecting autism early on so that children and parents can access various support services. Autism affects one in 160 children around the world. The sooner children are diagnosed, the better parents can plan for their future, such as by creating a special needs trust.

The study involved analyzing movement data from 37 autistic children aged between three and six. They played games on tablets and smartphones that had embedded motion sensors and touch-sensitive screens.

“The key difference is in the way children with autism move their hands as they touch, swipe, and gesture with the iPad during the game,” said Delafield-Butt. “This unexpected finding adds new impetus to a growing scientific understanding that movement is fundamentally disrupted in autism, and may underpin the disorder.”

Further research is needed to confirm the findings in order to integrate technology into the diagnostic process. However, using games to diagnose autism would minimize the need for children to undergo stressful, expensive and time-consuming tests by clinicians. It also allows for earlier, and possibly more effective, advance planning to maximize eligibility for important government benefits.

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Latinos face rising health care costs amid Alzheimer’s crisis

A recent report has warned that the Latino population in the United States is facing crippling health care and caregiver costs due to a dramatic rise in cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Unless there is a medical breakthrough in treatment, the number of U.S. Latinos with Alzheimer’s will rise exponentially to 3.5 million by 2060.

University of Southern California (USC) researchers found that U.S. Latinos are 50 percent more likely to get Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic Americans. The number of Latinos who have the disease is estimated to rise from 379,000 in 2012 to 1.1 million by 2030.

Researchers estimated the total costs of Alzheimer’s on millions of caregivers and other members of the Latino community to increase from $373 billion in 2030 to $2.35 trillion by 2060. The direct costs of Alzheimer’s consist of long-term care and medical expenses. Indirect costs include lost earnings of individuals with the disease and unpaid informal care.

The report also found that the financial impact of Alzheimer’s will be greater on Latinos than on non-Hispanic Americans even though Latinos are more likely to turn to affordable care options. For example, they may choose adult day care over costlier alternatives like nursing home care or medical facilities.

“Due to demographic and family structure shifts among Latinos, there will be a lower ratio of younger generations able to take care of older generations living with Alzheimer’s, placing significant societal and economic stress on Latinos,” said USC senior scientist and report co-author Shinyi Wu.

The report’s authors proposed several solutions for immediate action. These include increasing research funding for Alzheimer’s, promoting early detection for the disease, improving access to caregiver resources and providing caregivers with informal training in multiple languages.

An excellent source of information and planning advice is authored by attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix; Facing the Reality of Long-Term Care. It is available at

California couple’s eviction highlights dangers of elderly financial abuse

The elderly can be vulnerable to various forms of elder abuse, one of which is financial exploitation. Financial exploitation involves unauthorized use of an elderly person’s finances or property, either by a family member, caregiver or an unknown scammer.

The media recently reported the case of an elderly California couple who faced eviction from their home of 56 years after falling victim to a scam devised by their grandson. Chad Moore defrauded his grandparents Hank and Helen Kawecki out of their deed, defaulted on nearly $500,000 in loans and lost their Thousand Oaks house to foreclosure.

Moore convinced the couple he would provide them with lifelong financial support if they transferred the house over to him. After taking out a loan, he initially kept his promise to give his grandparents monthly payments. However, he stopped the payments after a few months and allegedly spent all the money in Las Vegas.

Instead, Moore put the house up for sale. He also lured his grandparents out of their home while realtors hosted open house events for potential clients. The couple filed a lawsuit against Moore with their neighbor’s help. Police are investigating the case.

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse has identified a number of behaviors commonly associated with financial fraud. These include: taking money or property, forging the elderly person’s signature, and failing to follow through on promises for lifelong care in exchange for money or property. An older person may also be coerced or deceived into signing a will, power of attorney or deed.

Creating an estate plan can help protect the elderly from financial exploitation. A living trust, Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Directive are all excellent safeguards. Each document names a trusted individual who can manage assets and health care according to specified wishes in the event of incapacity.

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