During National Women’s Health Week, Honor Your Own Health

National Women’s Health Week (May 13-19, 2018) is a perfect reminder to female healthcare providers to practice what we preach. As caregivers and as women who serve our communities’ health, we all too often focus on the health needs of others before our own. In the immortal words of every flight attendant, “Put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” Meaning, of course, that if you’re neglecting your own well-being, it will be difficult for you to help your clients and loved ones.

And as we age, it becomes increasingly important to monitor our health. That’s because older women are more likely than men to have chronic health conditions, including arthritis, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.

Happily, a great deal of what it takes to boost your chances for staying physically and mentally healthy is within your power. Below is what the experts with the American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation recommend.

See your healthcare provider regularly. Even if you feel perfectly healthy, get a check-up at least once a year, or as often as your provider recommends.

Take medications, vitamins, and supplements only as directed. When you visit your provider, bring all the pills and other supplements you take—even those you buy over the counter without a prescription. Your provider should check all of your pills to make sure they’re safe for you, and you should check with her before taking any new medication or supplement.

Let your provider know right away if a medication or supplement seems to be causing a problem or a side effect. Continue reading

Commonly Prescribed Heartburn Drug Linked to Pneumonia in Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Researchers at the University of Exeter have found a statistical link between pneumonia in older people and a group of medicines commonly used to neutralize stomach acid in people with heartburn or stomach ulcers. Although proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) are still a valuable group of medicines, research is indicating that PPIs are not as completely safe for older people as previously thought.

PPIs are medicines commonly prescribed to reduce gastric (stomach) acid production and to protect the stomach. Approximately 40 percent of older adults receive PPIs, although according to some experts, up to 85 percent of people who receive PPI prescriptions may not need them.

Researchers say people should not stop using their PPI medication, but should discuss with their prescribing healthcare professional whether the PPIs are still needed. Just stopping PPIs could be dangerous as PPIs may be useful, for example, to prevent stomach bleeds in some people.

Once thought to be relatively harmless, PPIs have more recently been linked to increased rates for certain health concerns like fractures, cardiovascular disease, and some bacterial infections. The association between PPI use and pneumonia was studied because stomach acid helps to prevent infections spreading from the gut in some individuals. Since pneumonia is a major cause of death for older adults, it is important for healthcare providers to understand the links between PPIs and pneumonia.

The Exeter team designed a study to look at statistical links in medical records between long-term PPI use and pneumonia in older adults. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

When Do Age-Related Problems with Memory and Decision-Making Begin to Affect Older Adults’ Ability to Drive?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

For older adults, driving can mean living a more independent, satisfying life. Therefore, it’s no surprise that about 86 percent of adults age 65 and older hold active driver’s licenses, and many of us expect to drive for longer as we age.

Car crashes can be devastating or even deadly for anyone, including older adults and other road users. However, the fatal crash rate based on the distance someone travels in a vehicle begins to rise at age 65. At the same time, when older adults stop driving due to health issues or other concerns, they may experience isolation and depression. They also may be more likely to enter long-term care facilities earlier than they otherwise would.

Researchers have a history of studying driver safety in older adults after they’ve been diagnosed with dementia, a decline in memory and other mental abilities that make daily living difficult. However, we have limited knowledge about the effects on older drivers whose problems with mental abilities are less severe than those associated with dementia.

Recently, a team of researchers designed a study to learn more about cognitive health and older drivers’ crash risks. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In this study, the researchers focused on links between levels of cognitive function and crash risk among older drivers without dementia over a 14-year study period. They also assessed the link between changes in cognitive function over time and later risks of crashes. Continue reading

Caregivers Can Help Assess Whether Older Adults are Dealing with Delirium

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Delirium is a sudden change in mental status that often occurs when older adults are in the hospital or after they have surgery. More than 20 percent of older adults may experience delirium.  The condition can lead to longer hospital stays, the need to be placed on a respirator (a machine that helps you breathe), long-term changes in your cognitive (mental) health, physical disability, and even death.

Acute illness (illnesses that happen suddenly, as opposed to chronic conditions that you live with over a longer period of time), surgery, and medications can contribute to delirium. In addition, disrupting regular routines may trigger sudden confusion or changes in behavior for certain people.

When healthcare professionals don’t recognize or diagnose delirium, it can delay an older person’s recovery.  Prolonged delirium can have a lasting impact on health and well-being. What’s more, delirium is distressing for caregivers—the family or friends involved in caring for an older adult. In hospitals, healthcare professionals screen (“test”) for delirium. However, despite routine screening, more than 60 percent of older adults with delirium are not diagnosed in hospitals. Continue reading

High-Quality Nursing Homes Lower Risks for Long-Term Care Placement for Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

After being discharged from the hospital, an older person often is admitted directly to a skilled nursing facility (SNF). SNFs specialize in the skilled care we need to recover properly.  These facilities also provide the additional rehabilitation we may need before returning home. However, experts have raised concerns about the uneven quality of SNF services, the substantial differences among them, and how they are used in different parts of the country. A transfer from an SNF to a long-term care facility, for example, is considered a failure to achieve the goals of SNF care.  Most older people view a move to a long-term care facility as a step in the wrong direction.

In a new study, researchers decided to examine the role that SNFs play with regard to older adults’ placements in long-term care facilities. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

The researchers studied the role of SNF quality and how it affected older adults’ risks of transitioning to long-term care facilities. They also looked at whether any aspects of skilled nursing were linked with an older adult’s risk of entering long-term care facilities. The research team focused specifically on whether the quality ratings of SNFs (available to the public, free of charge, here) helped predict long-term care placements. Continue reading