Health In Aging Blog


PTSD, Certain Prescriptions for PTSD May Raise Risk for Dementia

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Researchers are discovering that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a significant risk factor in developing dementia. Dementia is a memory problem that affects a person’s ability to carry out usual tasks. Dementia is a leading cause of serious illness, disability, and death.  It often requires care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility for people aged 65 and older.

Until now, researchers didn’t know whether the kinds of medications used for people with PTSD could increase risks for dementia. (These medications include including antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, or tranquilizers.) A new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined this connection.

In their study, researchers examined information from 3,139,780 veterans aged 56 and older. At the beginning of the study, in 2003, the veterans were receiving health care from a Veterans Health Administration facility. Almost all the veterans were male and 82% were white.

Of the veterans in the study, 5.4% had been diagnosed with PTSD. As the researchers looked at the data over the study’s nine-year follow-up period, they also included veterans who were diagnosed with dementia.

Research has previously shown that veterans with PTSD are more likely to have health problems linked to a higher risk for dementia. These include traumatic brain injury, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and other health issues. Continue reading

The Effects of Obesity on Cognitive Decline in Middle-Aged and Older African Americans

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Obesity has the potential to raise an older adult’s risk for having difficulty thinking and making decisions (also known as “cognitive decline” or dementia).  It is a complex health concern. Body mass index (BMI) is a scale that measures a person’s weight in relationship to their height.  Research shows that older adults who have an elevated BMI are at lower risk for dementia than people with lower BMIs.

However, BMI may not be the best measure for obesity’s effect on dementia. For example, signs such as carrying excess weight in the abdomen (also known as “belly fat”), and having a larger waist size, may better indicate whether a person is at higher risk for problems such as dementia.

Despite the fact that more African Americans are affected by obesity and dementia than  other individuals, few studies have examined the link between obesity and dementia among African Americans. Recently, a team of researchers examined this link, and published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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A Police Training Program in Age-Related Health Helps Communities Better Serve Older Adults

JAGS graphic

Staying up-to-date on the latest geriatrics research isn’t just for healthcare professionals. That’s why HealthinAging.org is expanding its partnership with the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) to give you access to the cutting-edge insights that your healthcare providers use to guide your clinical care. The HealthinAging blog will now feature regular updates from JAGS—including future postings of our monthly research summaries—so be sure to subscribe to updates today!

For older adults with complex care needs, police officers are often the first people on the scene for a health issue or concern. Police officers often respond to calls for older adults with cognitive impairments (health problems that affect our ability to think and make decisions), or to concerns about abuse, neglect, or the general well-being of older adults who live alone and benefit from “well-being” assessments.

However, when police don’t have essential information about how our health changes as we age, they may risk causing unintended harm. For example, a police officer might not know the best way to assist an older adult with dementia who is behaving disruptively or even violently.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that most police officers receive little to no training in aging-related health concerns, and that promising approaches to such training can improve how officers can help older adults in their communities when they’re called to offer assistance.

The study detailed results from a program designed by geriatric care experts in cooperation with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). The team created an aging-related health segment for inclusion in the 40-hour “Crisis Intervention Training” police officers receive for addressing the unique needs of certain individuals. The training is mandatory for all SFPD patrol division officers. Continue reading

Tax Guide for Older Adults Helps as Tax Time Looms

Alice Pomidor, MD, MPH, AGSF
Professor
Florida State University School of Medicine

Due to an unusual holiday twist, the deadline for filing your 2016 taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, “The usual April 15 deadline falls on Saturday this year, which would normally give taxpayers until at least the following Monday. However, Emancipation Day, a Washington, D.C. holiday, is observed on Monday, April 17, giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day to file. By law, D.C. holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 to file.”

Welcome news, certainly, for those of us who wait until the last minute to file our taxes. For older adults and their caregivers who have yet to file their taxes, here’s more welcome news:

Recently, U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, the ranking member on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, wrote a letter to older adults and their caregivers. In the letter, he shared The Guide, a helpful resource that the IRS created for the Committee to help older adults avoid paying more taxes than necessary.

Sen. Casey urges people to share The Guide with friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues.  It contains valuable information, including:

  • Which tax forms older adults should file, depending on which types of retirement income they receive.
  • How older adults can deduct out-of-pocket spending on medical and dental bills.
  • Specific tax credits older adults might be able to use this year
  • How to contact the IRS if you, or an older adult in your care, needs help with filing.

According to Sen. Casey, helping older adults avoid overpaying their taxes is one of the many steps the Senate Special Committee on Aging is taking to make sure that all older adults and their families can feel financially secure.

You can find the Guide at https://www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2016%20Tax%20Brochure.pdf.

Safe Use of Acetaminophen

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John J. Whyte, MD, MPH
Director, Professional Affairs & Stakeholder Engagement
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Millions of people use pain relievers every day and when used correctly, these medicines are safe and effective. As we age, we may find ourselves using these medications more often than in the past. Making sure we use them according to the label directions is important because they can really take a toll on our health when not used correctly.

The key is making sure you know the active ingredients of, and directions for, all your medicines before you use them.

Many over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that are sold for different uses actually have the same active ingredient. Also, active ingredients in OTC medicines can be the same as ingredients in prescription medicines. For example, a cold-and-cough remedy may have the same active ingredient as a headache remedy or a prescription pain reliever.

There are two basic types of OTC pain relievers. Some contain acetaminophen and others contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medicines are used to temporarily reduce fever, as well as temporarily relieve the minor aches and pains associated with:

  • minor pain of arthritis
  • headaches
  • muscle pain
  • backache
  • menstrual pain
  • toothaches
  • the common cold

We’ll focus on acetaminophen here. Acetaminophen is a common pain reliever and fever reducer, but taking too much can lead to liver damage. The risk for liver damage may be increased if you drink three or more alcoholic drinks while using medicines containing acetaminophen. Continue reading