Hospice Care Offers Comfort for Older Adults at End of Life. Should it be Considered Sooner?

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

A team of researchers from Yale University has studied how soon older adults who were experiencing distressing symptoms and disability were admitted to hospice near the end of their lives. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers examined information from a study of 562 people, aged 70 and older, who were not disabled when the study began. Of these people, 244 (43.4 percent) were admitted to hospice during the last year of life. These people were slightly older and more likely to have cognitive impairments (problems thinking and making decisions) than those individuals who weren’t admitted to hospice.

The most common condition leading to death was frailty (the medical term for physical weakness or an increasing likelihood for poor health), followed by organ failure (the term for certain parts of our body no longer working as they should), advanced dementia, and cancer. Continue reading

Frailty and Older Men: Study Identifies Factors that Speed or Slow Progression

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, we may be less able to perform daily activities because we may feel frail, or weaker than we have in the past. Frailer older adults may walk more slowly and have less energy. Frailty also raises a person’s risks for falling, breaking a bone, becoming hospitalized, developing delirium, and dying.

No one knows exactly how many older adults are frail—estimates range from 4 percent to 59 percent of the older adult population, according to a 2015 study. Researchers say that frailty seems to increase with age, and is more common among women than men and in people with lower education and income. Being in poorer health and having several chronic illnesses also have links to being frail.

Frailty also tends to worsen over time, but in at least two studies, a small number (9 percent to 14 percent) of frail older adults became stronger and less frail as they aged. A team of researchers decided to find out what factors might predict whether frailty in older men worsens or improves over time. The researchers’ findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Responding to Harvey: What We Can Do

Nancy Lundebjerg
Chief Executive Officer
American Geriatrics Society

Here at the AGS and Health in Aging Foundation offices, we’ve been closely following Hurricane Harvey and its impacts on the Gulf Coast. Many of the images circulating on social media and in the news have been heart-breaking. At the same time, it’s been inspiring to see the general outpouring of support and the many volunteers who have turned out to assist neighbors, friends, and strangers.

The AGS and the Health in Aging Foundation have a history of doing what we can to help smaller, sometimes overlooked organizations working on the ground in response to national emergencies like Hurricane Harvey. Earlier this week, in fact, we reached out to AGS members and leaders in storm-hit communities to check in on how they were doing and to ask how we could help. They recommended donating to Jewish Family Services (a Houston-based organization working with a host of faith-based and nondenominational partners on short-term and long-term recovery) and BakerRipley (a 110-year-old community development organization tasked with running one of Houston’s largest hurricane recovery shelters).Based on their advice, the AGS Health in Aging Foundation made donations to both organizations to assist with recovery efforts.

Like the staff here, you likely have been tracking the ways you can help those in need. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you’d like to volunteer in a storm-hit community, register through a volunteer organization or disaster recovery group. Two organizations that are coordinating volunteers in Houston, for example, are Volunteer Houston and All Hands Volunteers. Remember: It’s best not to contact local law enforcement or emergency medical services directly to offer your services. Try to keep their lines open for emergency calls.
  • For those of you who may not be in or near a storm-hit city, you can still make an impact by donating to a national or local charity working on emergency relief and recovery. In addition to the two organizations mentioned above, here are examples of other local organizations to consider:

For Older Adults with Multiple Chronic Conditions, Using Non-Drug Behavioral Treatments for Symptoms May Be Helpful

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

When we have several chronic health conditions as we age, the symptoms we experience can reduce our quality of life. In fact, having multiple chronic conditions is linked to symptoms that can restrict our ability to perform our daily routines. Some 70 percent of adults over the age of 75 have more than two chronic health conditions. Nearly 55 percent of Medicare recipients who have had a stroke or heart failure have five or more chronic conditions.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers note that little is known about treating symptoms of multiple illnesses because people with two or more conditions are usually excluded from studies for specific diseases.

The researchers examined the results of a study that was originally designed to test how well people did after they stopped taking statin medication used to lower cholesterol levels. Their goal was to better understand the outcomes of having multiple diseases, the burden that symptoms placed on older adults, and the effects multiple chronic problems had on older adults’ ability to function. In addition, the researchers compared how a having diagnosis of cancer to having multiple chronic conditions affected an older adult’s ability to function. Continue reading

Elder Abuse: Being Part of the Solution

American Geriatrics Society Staff

The mistreatment of older adults is called elder abuse. It is more widespread than many of us realize. Although statistics suggest that one in 10 older people is abused every year, the actual number is likely to be much higher because so many cases of elder abuse go unreported.

That’s why it’s so important for us to put elder abuse on our individual radars. Signs of elder abuse may not be immediately obvious. Members of our own families may be subject to abuse, as can our older neighbors, friends, and acquaintances.

No matter how old we are, justice requires that we all be treated as full members of our communities, say experts at the National Center on Elder Abuse. However, because some older adults are not visible to other members of the community, they can be at greater risk for being neglected or abused.

The range of situations that make up elder abuse is broad. Elder abuse can include neglect (both intentional as well as self-neglect), and abuse that is financial, emotional and psychological, physical, and/or sexual. These are all forms of injustice we need to address to better serve our communities.

As difficult as it might be to realize that an older person is being abused, it may be even more difficult for us to report it—we may fear that we’ve misunderstood a situation or are overreacting. Trust your instincts. If you suspect that something isn’t right, act. Continue reading