Why Is My Food Tasteless?

Syed picQuratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Have you recently been struggling with keeping up your nutritional intake? Are you losing weight unintentionally? Does your food seem tasteless? It may not be a fault of yours or the person who does the cooking at home.  You may be one of the many older adults who experience problems with sensation of taste.

Taste disorders can be a result of normal aging and are frequently experienced by older adults living in long term care facilities or admitted to hospitals. Numerous medical conditions can affect taste sensations, such as liver, heart, kidney and thyroid problems, diabetes, upper respiratory infections, among others.

Additionally, numerous medications can affect taste, including cholesterol lowering medicines (commonly called statins), blood pressure medicines, anti-allergic medicines, heartburn medicines, antibiotics, and medicines for cancers.

Cigarette smoking, poor dental hygiene, and dental infections can affect taste as well.

Here are some tips if you think you are experiencing taste impairment:

  • If you have not seen a dentist recently, schedule an appointment to have your teeth and gums examined, to make sure they are healthy.
  • Take all your medications (including prescription, over the counter, and herbal medicines) to your appointment with your provider, so they can be reviewed for any possible side effects.
  • Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your problem.
  • Discuss your medications with your provider to understand why you are taking them. Ask if any medications can be stopped or reduced in dosage.
  • There are numerous reasons for quitting smoking, regardless of your age. A taste disorder is one of them!

Bon Appetit!

Mental Health Awareness for Older Adults

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Alice Pomidor, MD, MPH, AGSF
Professor
Florida State University School of Medicine

Mary Palmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, AGSF
Helen W. and Thomas L. Umphlet Distinguished Professor in Aging
UNC School of Nursing

Many of today’s older adults grew up during a time when mental health problems were not as well understood as they are today. People didn’t discuss problems like depression, for example, and many people considered mental health issues as “weaknesses” that could be cured by simply improving one’s attitude.

Now, of course, we understand that good mental health and good physical health are equally important to our well-being. Experts understand that mental health challenges are treatable. You can improve the quality of your life, or that of an older adult you care for, by making sure healthcare professionals address any potential mental health issues.

Mental Health Problems: Common Among Older Adults

Among adults aged 65 and older, about one in five have a mental disorder, including dementia.   Over 50% of people living in long-term care facilities have some form of cognitive impairment.

Other common mental health problems that affect older adults include anxiety and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Even though older adults commonly have mental health issues, they are less likely than younger adults to receive treatment for them. When they do receive treatment, it’s also less likely for them to see a mental health specialist. More often, older adults seek mental health treatment from their primary care providers. Continue reading

Polypharmacy and Deprescribing

WebDoes the number of medications you’re taking sometimes seem too high? Maybe it’s time for you and your healthcare provider to give your medication list a check-up by taking a closer look at the prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments you take.

As you grow older, you’re more likely to develop health conditions that require taking multiple medications—some of which you may take for a long time. Many older people also take OTC medications, vitamins, or supplements as part of their routine care. As a result, older adults have a higher risk of overmedication, also known as “polypharmacy”—the medical term for taking four or more medications at the same time. Polypharmacy can increase your chances of unwanted reactions (also called “adverse drug reactions”) due to medications taken on their own or together.

To address this increasingly common problem, healthcare providers are focusing on how to reduce the number of medicines older adults are using through a practice called “deprescribing.” Dr. Michael Steinman, a member of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco, recently appeared on WPUR—Boston’s NPR News Station—to discuss deprescribing with Dr. Barb Farrell, a pharmacist from Bruyère Geriatric Day Hospital in Ottawa, and Laura Landro, assistant managing editor at the Wall Street Journal. Hear what they had to say.

Want access to more tips and tools to help you manage multiple chronic conditions or multiple medications? We’ve got you covered.

 

Have you scheduled your Medicare wellness visit yet?

Syed picQuratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Now that we are almost through 2016, I hope you haven’t all lost track of your healthy lifestyle New Year resolutions.  The Medicare annual wellness visit can help you achieve those goals.

If you enrolled in Medicare plan B within the past 12 months, you are eligible for a Welcome to Medicare preventive visit. If you have had Medicare for more than a year, you are eligible for an annual wellness visit every year (at least 11 months after the previous wellness visit).  These visits include a review of your medical history, social history related to your health and education, and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots, and referrals for services, if needed.

Here is how to prepare for the visit:

  • These visits are free of cost. However, you may have to pay Medicare a deductible or co-insurance if your healthcare provider performs additional tests or services during the same visit and those services aren’t covered under these preventive benefits.
  • Even if you are seeing your current primary care provider, remember to bring any prior medical information, including immunization records, to make sure nothing is overlooked.
  • Gather information about your family’s health history before your appointment. This will help guide discussion on the screenings you should get and the pros and cons of these tests.
  • Bring an updated list of all prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements that you currently take.
  • Do you have advance directives? If you don’t have any, or if you wish to update them, write down your preferences and goals in life in order to discuss them with your healthcare provider.
  • Write down your current level of physical activity and your activity goals. Physical activity can prevent/reduce falls and improve physical strength. Having notes will allow you to have a conversation with your provider about available resources that can help you achieve these goals.
  • Be prepared to discuss any home safety concerns. If your home is in need of rails or grab bars or other modifications to meet your physical needs, you can discuss them at this visit.

Call your healthcare provider today to schedule your annual wellness visit!

The Inextricable Link between the Eldercare Workforce and Family Caregiving

TF-cropped-photo-by-andy-camp-webTerry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, AGSF
President, The John A. Hartford Foundation

(This post also appeared on the blogs for the Eldercare Workforce Alliance and The John A. Hartford Foundation.)

Are you a caregiver? Sooner or later, caregiving touches us all.

According to a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Families Caring for an Aging America, nearly 18 million individuals currently provide care to an older family member, spouse, or friend. Millions more anticipate serving in a caregiving role in the future. Most of us, as we age, will eventually become care recipients.

For individuals and for society as a whole, the preparation of our nation’s workforce to address caregivers’ needs should be of paramount concern.

Family caregivers are a large and absolutely critical component of our health care workforce. They are the primary providers of care for our nation’s older adults, yet they remain almost invisible. While they perform a host of vitally important activities, from meal preparation and house cleaning to complex medical tasks like wound care, they often do so with no training, limited support, and little recognition.

As the Academies’ report documents, our fragmented health care system and the demands it places on families often result in physical, emotional, and financial challenges for these heroic caregivers, which puts their loved ones at risk. This is unsustainable, dangerous, and wrong.

The good news is that health and social service professionals, as well as direct care workers such as home health aides and nursing assistants, are in a unique position to support family caregivers. To make that possible, we must work to create a health care system that is not just person-centered, but also family-centered, as called for in the report. The entire care workforce needs to be equipped with training and systems that support this transformative approach. Continue reading