Health In Aging Blog


Home-Based Activity Program Reduces Severity and Frequency of Behavioral Symptoms and Maintains Function for Older Veterans with Dementia

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

People with dementia often have behavioral symptoms. These include problems with memory, language, and decision-making abilities. People with dementia can also experience changes in mood, such as increased irritability, depression, and anxiety. They often need assistance with their daily activities, such as feeding, dressing, using the toilet, and bathing themselves. These symptoms are often troubling for people with dementia, as well as for their caregivers.

These dementia symptoms can reduce quality of life for people as they age. This can make them dependent on other people, which can lead to caregivers feeling distressed. It may also lead to people with dementia being hospitalized or placed in a nursing home, even if it is not what they would prefer for their care.

There are no effective drug treatments for dementia or its symptoms. Therefore, researchers have been exploring treatment options to improve symptoms that don’t involve using medication. A team of researchers studied one of those programs, called the Tailored Activity Program (TAP). TAP matches activities to the interests and abilities of people with dementia. Then it teaches caregivers how to use those activities daily.

The researchers initially reported positive results in a small study of 60 people. They then studied TAP in a larger group of veterans living with dementia. They reported their results in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Taking Proton Pump Inhibitors Not Linked to Higher Dementia Risk

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are medicines commonly prescribed to treat acid-related digestive problems, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD).  As of 2011, up to 1 in 5 older adults reported using a PPI. Although healthcare practitioners have long believed that PPIs are safe, recent studies have linked PPIs to potential risks, including fractures and kidney disease. Some studies also have linked PPIs to an increased risk for dementia among older adults. However, several experts have suggested that these studies may not correctly measure the connection.

In a new research article published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, scientists were able to conclude that developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia) did not appear to be linked to taking PPIs.

The researchers reviewed information from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, which included 3,484 adults aged 65 and older. Participants did not have dementia at the beginning of the study and were followed for an average of about 7.5 years. Continue reading

For Adults Younger than 78, Higher Risk for Heart Disease Linked to Higher Risk for Problems Walking

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Problems with balance, walking speed, and muscle strength become more common as we age, and can lead to disability. In fact, studies show that for older adults, having a slower walking speed can help predict chronic illness, hospitalization, and even death.

A team of researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm examined the factors that put older adults at higher risk for developing physical limitations as they age. The team studied information from the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care-Kungsholmen (SNAC-K), and published their research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers studied participants aged 60 or older who lived in Stockholm and who did not have heart disease at the start of the study. When the study began, participants did not have problems with walking speed, balance, or chair standing exercises. All of these measure your risk for falls. Continue reading

Obese Older Adults Who Survive Cardiac Surgery May Have Increased Risk for Functioning Poorly

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Obese Older Adults Who Survive Cardiac Surgery May Have Increased Risk for Functioning Poorly

More than one-third of Americans are considered obese based on their Body Mass Index (BMI). (BMI measures the ratio between your height and weight. A BMI of 30 or above signals obesity.)  As more and more of us age, we also are likely to see an increase in the number of older people who have a difficult time maintaining a healthy body weight. That’s a serious problem, since obesity can impact many parts of our health and daily life. For example, studies show people who are obese have more complications following heart surgery—an increasingly common surgery for older adults—than do people who are considered overweight (but not obese) or who maintain a “normal” weight.

Although we know that obese older adults may be surviving heart surgery with more complications, few researchers have studied how well they can manage daily activities like eating, bathing, walking short distances, dressing, getting in or out of bed, and using the toilet.

To learn more about this key issue, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania examined information from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) Lowers 30-Day Readmission Rates

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

The Hospital Elder Life Program, or HELP, is an evidence-based treatment plan developed in the 1990s to prevent hospitalized older adults from developing delirium (the medical term for sudden confusion).  Delirium can cause people to be either aggressive and agitated or sleepy and inactive—sometimes even a combination of the two. Delirium is also the most common complication older adults experience after surgery.

Delirium has many causes, including infection, excess time in bed, and an imbalance in electrolytes (important minerals dissolved in bodily fluids). Older adults with delirium have longer hospital stays, higher care costs, and increased rates of death and institutionalization.

 In a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined the HELP program. They wanted to learn how effective it was at preventing older people from being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days, which is often harmful for patients and costly for hospitals. Continue reading