What Influences Older Adults’ Preferences for Care?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

We all know that family and friends are important, and that the people close to us have a big impact on our health. Now, a team of researchers has found that family support is also important when older people with advanced illnesses think about how the type of care they would prefer as they age.

 Understanding how we would prefer to be cared for as we age is vital to providing person-centered care. Person-centered care puts individual values and preferences at the heart of care decisions.  It focuses attention on the health and life goals we have individually.  Person-centered care is considered a gold standard for health care.

Until now, we haven’t had a good understanding of how older adults form care preferences. To learn more about care preferences and how they might be influenced for older adults with advanced illnesses, a team of researchers from the United Kingdom searched for existing medical studies about the topic and collected the results. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The research team looked at 57 studies about the preferences of older adults with advanced illness.  They included research that investigated preferences for where people wanted to be cared for, the kinds of communication and decision-making they wanted, and what quality of life they hoped to have over time. Continue reading

End-of-Life Hospital and Healthcare Use Among Older Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Because people are now living longer and often healthier lives, the rate of some illnesses that are more likely to develop with age has risen. These illnesses include dementia. In fact, the number of us living with dementia was already 47 million worldwide in 2015. It could reach 131 million by 2050.

Dementia is a general term that includes different types of mental decline. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

As Alzheimer’s disease worsens, older adults may become more likely to have trouble performing daily activities, can develop trouble swallowing, and may become less active. This increases the risk for other concerns like infections. These infections, such as pneumonia, can increase the risk for death. As a result, the cause of death for people living with Alzheimer’s disease is often infections or some other cause, rather than the Alzheimer’s disease itself.

A team of researchers from Belgium recently studied how people with Alzheimer’s disease use medical services during their final months. The goal was to learn more about the best ways to help older adults with dementia at the end of their lives. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Study Finds that Most Older Adults are Aware of Medication Risks

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Geriatrics experts know that certain medications may have risks for older adults that outweigh their benefits, especially when safer alternatives are available. Medications that could be “potentially inappropriate” for older adults are included on recommendation lists that your healthcare provider can consult, such as the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Beers Criteria or the STOPP-START list.

However, despite these recommendations, 25 percent of older adults take at least one potentially inappropriate medication every year. Taking these medications can increase the risk of being hospitalized due to a medication-related problem. Although 70 percent of older adults are willing to stop taking certain medications, healthcare providers continue to prescribe some potentially inappropriate medicines to older adults.

Researchers from the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie in Montréal, Canada, designed a survey to learn about older adults’ awareness of drug-related health risks. They conducted the survey over the telephone with 2,665 participants, aged 65 or older. Continue reading

Talking to Older Adults About Health Prognosis May Be Helpful

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Prognosis is the term for the most likely outcome of a medical condition. When it comes to health care, talking about your prognosis can be difficult for you, your family/friends, and even your healthcare providers. However, many of us prefer to talk to our healthcare providers about the expected course of an illness and about our life expectancy when living with a chronic or terminal illness.  This is according to new research on advanced care planning (the technical term for having early conversations with our healthcare providers about our care needs, preferences, and expectations).

In a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined how older adults with disabilities later in life might react to learning their prognosis, and how they evaluated their own prognosis compared to “official” estimates.

The study participants were 35 adults 70-years-old and older from four geriatrics clinics in the San Francisco Bay area. All the participants required help with daily activities, and they all participated in a 45-minute interview as part of the study.

The researchers asked older adults questions about how they would want to receive information about their life expectancy. For example, did they prefer hearing or reading news about their prognosis? Would they prefer receiving information about their prognosis while at home by themselves? Continue reading

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