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

For Older Adults with Diabetes, Losing Weight through Diet and Exercise Can Improve Blood Circulation in the Brain

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Type 2 diabetes affects blood circulation. The disease stiffens blood vessels and reduces the amount of oxygen that circulates throughout your body. This includes your brain. When blood flow in the brain is impaired, it can affect the way we think and make decisions.

People who have type 2 diabetes are often overweight or obese. These are conditions that may also be linked to cognitive problems (problems with thinking abilities). Lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity are known to reduce the negative effects of type 2 diabetes on the body. However, the effects of these interventions on cognition and the brain are not clear.

Recently, researchers examined information from a 10-year-long study called Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD). In this study, participants learned how to adopt healthy, long-term behavior changes. In their new study, the researchers focused on whether participants with type 2 diabetes who lowered calories in their diet and increased physical activity had better blood flow to the brain. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

For Older Adults, Dry Mouth Symptoms can be a Side Effect of Certain Medications

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

For older adults, dry mouth can be a common side effect of prescribed medications. Having dry mouth means you don’t have enough saliva, or spit, to keep your mouth wet. The condition can lead to problems chewing, eating, swallowing, and even talking. What’s more, dry mouth puts you at higher risk for tooth decay and oral infections.

However, there’s much we don’t understand about the connection between medications and dry mouth in older adults. Recently, researchers examined 52 related studies to learn more. Their research was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

For Older Adults, Keeping Your Heart Healthy May Protect Against Disability

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

A healthy heart is important to the well-being of older adults. The American Heart Association (AHA) defines “ideal cardiovascular health” based on four health behaviors (current smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and healthy diet) and three health factors (total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose level).

Recently, a team of researchers studied older Latin Americans to examine the relationship between the AHA guidelines and disability. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Association.

The relationship is an important one to consider, since heart disease (also known as “cardiovascular disease) can lead to several disabling problems for older adults. In fact, heart attacks and strokes are the first and third most common causes of disability in the US. The effect of a stroke on the brain is a leading cause of disability. Cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of dementia and, for older adults, the disease also can make it difficult to function in daily life.

In their study, the researchers used information from the Chilean National Health Survey conducted between 2009-2010. 460 Chilean adults all over age 65 participated in the study. Continue reading

When a Doctor Becomes a Caregiver

Quratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Late last year, I encountered the realities of caregiving personally. Although my father had officially retired, he was still working as a professional banker at the time he was diagnosed with an advanced cancer. I have over 6 years of experience practicing geriatric medicine, where I am used to giving bad news to patients and caregivers, and lecturing caregivers on caregiver stress.  However, none of this had prepared me for the roller coaster ride awaiting me and my family during my father’s illness.

I was lucky to have the privilege of playing the “doctor card” as a caregiver.  I got consultative advice from colleagues and friends whenever I needed it, and had access to medical experts who were beyond supportive and courteous in providing care to my father. Despite all of this, however, my administrative assistant’s comment that “you are falling apart” truly expressed my state of mind. The last six months of my father’s life gave me an in-depth view of the invaluable role of caregivers, who navigate a very complex health care system, often without having a medical background.

In this blog, I’d like to share a few tips from caregivers’ literature, which I found helpful: Continue reading