Home-Based Activity Program Reduces Severity and Frequency of Behavioral Symptoms and Maintains Function for Older Veterans with Dementia

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

People with dementia often have behavioral symptoms. These include problems with memory, language, and decision-making abilities. People with dementia can also experience changes in mood, such as increased irritability, depression, and anxiety. They often need assistance with their daily activities, such as feeding, dressing, using the toilet, and bathing themselves. These symptoms are often troubling for people with dementia, as well as for their caregivers.

These dementia symptoms can reduce quality of life for people as they age. This can make them dependent on other people, which can lead to caregivers feeling distressed. It may also lead to people with dementia being hospitalized or placed in a nursing home, even if it is not what they would prefer for their care.

There are no effective drug treatments for dementia or its symptoms. Therefore, researchers have been exploring treatment options to improve symptoms that don’t involve using medication. A team of researchers studied one of those programs, called the Tailored Activity Program (TAP). TAP matches activities to the interests and abilities of people with dementia. Then it teaches caregivers how to use those activities daily.

The researchers initially reported positive results in a small study of 60 people. They then studied TAP in a larger group of veterans living with dementia. They reported their results in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

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

Older Drivers Who Experience Falls May be at a Higher Risk for Car Crashes

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, our ability to drive may help us live independently, shop for ourselves, and maintain social connections. Although car crash rates are low among older adults and are declining, older adults do still have higher rates of fatal crashes. Falls, which are a common and preventable cause of injury among older adults, may lower our ability to drive safely.

Experts believe that falls are related to driving in four ways:

  • They can cause physical injury that limits mobility (our ability to move) and interferes with driving performance.
  • Falling can increase the fear of falling, which leads to a reduction in physical activity. Reduced physical activity can weaken our physical strength, which also could reduce fitness for driving.
  • Falls can affect an older adult’s mental well-being, making them more fearful and leading to changes in driving behaviors.
  • Falls and difficulty driving may be caused by common factors, such as vision problems.

A research team created a study to see whether falls were related to driving risks and behaviors among older adults. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 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