American Geriatrics Society Helps You “Choose Wisely”

This week, the American Board of International Medicine (ABIM) Foundation published the latest of its ground-breaking Choosing Wisely® “five-things” lists, and I’m pleased to report that one of these new lists comes from the American Geriatrics Society. In case you’re not familiar with these important Choosing Wisely lists, here’s a little background:

Two years ago, the ABIM Foundation and Consumer Reports launched the Choosing Wisely campaign to encourage people to learn more about the tests and treatments their healthcare providers recommend, and to question and discuss these with their healthcare professionals under certain circumstances. There are two parts to the Choosing Wisely campaign. Numerous medical societies have gone through an in-depth review process to identify five tests or treatments for which there may not be enough medical research that shows safety or effectiveness. In some cases, the research may even show unwanted effects. At the same time, the Foundation and Consumer Reports have been encouraging people to check the lists to see if tests or treatments their healthcare providers have recommended are on them. If so, the campaign urges people to bring this up with their healthcare professionals and discuss it. Continue reading

Heart Healthy Reflections for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a time of flowers, chocolate hearts, and celebrations of love and life.  For thousands of years, the heart has symbolized love and passion and has inspired great poetry, literature, art, and music. But maybe this year we should start a new tradition on Valentine’s Day: To check in with ourselves and those around us to look for signs of heart disease.

There are several types of heart disease, with coronary artery disease being the most common. It is estimated that more than 80 million Americans have at least one major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.

All told, some one million people a year will die of heart disease. Though one of the risk factors is advancing age, more than 150,000 heart disease and stroke deaths every year are among people younger than 65. With the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes rates in children, we will likely see increased rates of heart disease and stroke occurring at earlier ages. Continue reading

My Favorite Time of Year…

This time of year has always been one of my favorites. It’s a time when things slow down a bit, allowing more time with family and friends – time to catch up, celebrate cherished rituals, and enjoy favorite foods and one another’s company. But while this can be a wonderful time of year, it can also be challenging, particularly for older adults.

For some older people, the end of another year can be a powerful reminder of how many years have already passed. Traditions like lighting the menorah candles or decorating the Christmas tree may bring to mind family and friends who are no longer with us. For some older adults, health problems can make it difficult, or perhaps impossible, to travel to traditional get-togethers with relatives and old friends. All of these things can contribute to the “holiday blues” or, more seriously, depression.

In colder parts of the country older adults may face other challenges. Older people run higher risks of injuries while shoveling snow, for example, and are more likely to develop frostbite and hypothermia –  a life-threating condition in which your body temperature drops to dangerous levels. Snow and icy weather can also put older adults at risk of falls and fractures.

The good news, however, is that there are many things older people, and their caregivers, can do to help address these problems. And you’ll find them on healthinaging.org – the source of a wealth of easy-to-read health information for seniors that’s reviewed by leading experts in elder health. These include:

You’ll also find 10 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults on healthinaging.org. I recommend it for adults of all ages. In fact, I’ve resolved to make a few of the ten my own this New Year.

Here’s wishing you and yours a happy season!

Falls Prevention Video Series

Every 15 seconds—roughly the time it’ll take you to read this sentence—an older adult falls and suffers serious injuries. This simply shouldn’t happen. Some age-related changes—for example, in your vision, balance, and flexibility—increase risks of falling, but there’s a great deal you can do to prevent falls in later life.  

The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging is committed to helping prevent falls.  We have created a series of five new, easy-to-follow videos illustrating how older adults can avoid falls. I encourage you to take a look and to share these videos with others.

The Foundation’s new falls prevention videos cover:

What you can do to avoid falls at home—simple things you can do to prevent falls, such as making sure all your rugs are firmly fastened to the floor or have nonskid backing; and installing night-lights in your bedroom, hallways, and bathroom.

Falls assessment—a quick, simple, and reliable test your healthcare provider can use to determine whether you’re at increased risk of falling.

How your healthcare professional can help lower your risk—things your healthcare provider can do to help you lower your odds of falling, such as : identifying whether any of your medications or supplements might increase  your risk of a fall and finding safer alternatives; and checking your balance, vision, leg strength, blood pressure, and the way you walk, and recommending exercises and lifestyle changes to make you surer on your feet.

How to choose and use a cane—expert advice for choosing the right cane, in the right size, and using it appropriately.

How to choose an use a walker—an explanation of the different types of walkers, and advice for finding and using the right one.

The expert content for all five videos comes from Healthinaging.org, which includes a wealth of additional information, tips, and tools to help older adults prevent falls. Just type “falls” in the search box above, and start lowering your risk today.

National Family Caregiver Month

When you hear the words “family caregiver” what image comes to mind? Odds are, you envision a woman. We tend to assume that family caregivers are wives, daughters, sisters, nieces, and granddaughters. But here’s a surprise: According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 45 percent of relatives caring for older adults in the U.S. are men.
What accounts for the growing percentage of men caring for older family members? According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, decades-long declines in family size, and increasingly far-flung families, are likely contributors. If your aging mom needs help, and you’re the only nearby, you step up to bat. Period.

So this month—National Family Caregiver Month—and beyond, we at the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging (HIA) hope you’ll show your support for the women and men you know who are caring for their aging relatives. While growing numbers of husbands, sons, brothers, nephews, and grandsons are now playing this role, they may be less likely than women to reach out for help with caregiving when they need it, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. This means we need to do more to reach out to them.

Organizations and services for family caregivers are already doing this. The Journal story, for example, spotlights a Colorado home care service that created a virtual community just for men—www.malecaregivercommunity.com—thinking it would be more appealing to male caregivers . It has been. “Since it started in June, more than 84 discussions have developed,” the paper reports.

In addition to support, family caregivers also need top-notch information. And that’s where Healthinaging.org comes in. Among other things, it offers comprehensive information about caring for even the most medically complex older adults—those with multiple, chronic health problems. Just as important, it offers information about caring for yourself if you’re a caregiver. We hope you’ll mention the site to the family caregivers you know— men and women alike.