Touring Senior Centers, Interacting with Older Adults Positively Impacts Medical Residents’ Careers, Enhances Knowledge of Issues & Needs

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

A new study has found that a community-based service learning experience involving greater interaction with older adults had a positive impact on career development for medical residents (physicians who have graduated from medical school and are starting work at a healthcare facility under supervision). Researchers who designed the program published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Eighty third-year Internal Medicine residents at the University of Pennsylvania participated in the study; 71 residents completed follow-up surveys. As part of the program, medical residents engaged in several different activities at residential facilities serving older adults:

  • Participants toured the building or center, including apartments, and learned about the facility’s purpose, operations, and diverse community of older men and women.
  • Participants attended brief presentations about local community resources available to older adults.
  • Participants delivered a 45-60 minute presentations on healthcare topics for older adults at the facility. Presentations covered cancer screenings and preventive healthcare for heart disease and strokes, as well as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, dementia, and depression.

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Mediterranean-Style Diets Linked to Better Brain Function in Older Adults

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Eating foods included in two healthy diets—the Mediterranean or the MIND diet—is linked to a lower risk for memory difficulties in older adults, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, nuts, olive oil and fish. Processed foods, fried and fast foods, snack foods, red meat, poultry and whole-fat dairy foods are infrequently eaten on the Mediterranean diet.

The MIND diet is a version of the Mediterranean diet that includes 15 types of foods. Ten are considered “brain-healthy:” green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Five are considered unhealthy: red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried/fast foods.

Researchers examined information from 5,907 older adults who participated in the Health and Retirement Study. The participants filled out questionnaires about their eating habits. Researchers then measured the participants’ cognitive abilities—mostly on their memory and attention skills. Continue reading

Cleaning (as if someone else might have to)

Nancy Lundebjerg resizedNancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
American Geriatrics Society

It started with the shoes in the corner of the bedroom—and it continued through three closets, two dressers, a huge chest in my living room, a small filing cabinet, the front hall closet, and even the desk in my office at work. Some might call this spring cleaning but, for me, it’s more episodic and usually sparked by something like being annoyed enough by the pile of shoes in the corner to find them a home.

As always happens during one of these all too rare bouts of purging, I think about the family cleaning events I’ve been part of as parents, aunts, and grandparents moved on. I was having dinner with a few friends last week and we were swapping our caregiver cleaning stories. I found that my late father’s desire to hold on to his power tools was matched by my friend’s father’s desire to bring them all with him to his new assisted living facility. I somehow ended up with a drill, hammer, and a ruler from my dad. The hammer is spattered with paint and the head may be a little loose but I think of my dad every time I use it and could not imagine purchasing a shiny new one. The ruler is an artifact in my curio cabinet – along with the rotary phone from my parent’s bedroom. They’re Items with no current purpose…and they make me smile.

I also spent several years as my aunt’s primary caregiver. Moving her out of her apartment was easier but still no less daunting. I had reached the point where I couldn’t maintain her at home given her advanced dementia, and so I undertook the hunt for a quality nursing home that she could afford and that would take her (Sidenote: “Would take her” is a thing…and a thing for an entirely different blog post!). Having found one, there came the task of cleaning out her apartment. My sister, niece, and I found that she had a closet filled with lightbulbs ordered from some charity (beware the telemarketer and your older loved one). There were bricks in that closet—from where and for what we still do not know. She also had a cedar chest (made by my grandfather) filled with old ConEd bills.

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New Study: Proton Pump Inhibitors Do Not Contribute to Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are medications used to treat digestive problems such as ulcers and reflux disease by reducing the body’s production of the acid that helps us digest food. Ulcers are sores that develop on the lining of our digestive system; when they develop in the upper part of the small intestine they are called “duodenal ulcers.” Reflux disease is a condition in which stomach acid or other fluids in the digestive system irritate our food pipe, also known as the esophagus.

Recently, safety questions about these medications have been raised in several studies. These studies suggested that PPIs increased the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in people 75-years-old or older. Noting that the prescription of PPIs is on the rise among middle-aged and older adults, a team of researchers designed a new study to examine PPIs and the risk of dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The researchers also examined whether people with mild cognitive impairment who took PPIs were at higher risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

Difficulties Diagnosing Delirium in Older Adults After Surgery

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Delirium is a medical term for “sudden confusion.” It is an abrupt, rapid change in mental function and can cause a wide variety of shifts in behavior ranging from aggression or agitation to feeling sleepy and inactive (or even a combination of several behaviors). When delirium occurs after an older person has had surgery, it’s called “post-operative delirium.”

Experts still don’t always agree on delirium symptoms or diagnoses, even when they are assessing the same symptoms in the same people. A team of researchers from the Netherlands designed a study to look at the accuracy of delirium diagnoses in older adults after surgeries. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In the study, researchers examined 167 older adults from one to three days after surgery. The researchers used a standard delirium rating scale and recorded the tests on video. Afterwards, the videos were shown to two independent delirium experts. If the experts didn’t agree on a diagnosis, the researchers asked a third expert to review the video. A third expert was called in for 21 percent of the evaluations. Continue reading