Some Frail Older Adults May Receive Potentially Inappropriate Medications When Admitted to Nursing Homes

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Medical experts know that older adults who have dementia or other mental health concerns that impact thinking or decision making should avoid certain “potentially inappropriate medications” (PIMs). PIMs can worsen confusion and raise the risks for falls, fractures, and even death, particularly for people with complex health needs.

PIMs may include treatments like:

  • Benzodiazepines (medications sometimes called “tranquilizers” and used to treat sleep problems, anxiety, or to relax muscles)
  • Antipsychotics (medications sometimes used to address mental health conditions)
  • H2-blockers (medications sometimes used to decrease the production of stomach acid)
  • Anticholinergics (medications that block a substance called acetylcholine, a “neurotransmitter” that transfers signals between certain cells to impact how your body functions. Anticholinergics have been used to treat several different conditions, including incontinence and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD).

A Canadian research team investigated how often healthcare providers prescribed PIMs to older adults living with dementia or other mental health concerns and who were being admitted to nursing homes. The research team examined records from more than 40,000 people with dementia or cognitive impairments who were over the age of 66 and had been admitted to nursing homes between 2011 and 2014. The team published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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Poor Appetite and Food Intake in Older Adults

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Having a poor appetite is a serious health concern for older adults. It can lead to inadequate nutrition, which can shorten your life or reduce your quality of life. Between 11 percent and 15 percent of older adults who live independently are estimated to have poor appetites.

Strategies to improve our appetites as we age include reducing portion size, increasing meal frequency, and using flavor enhancers. Until recently, however, these options have not proven to improve food intake or quality of life for older people. That’s part of the reason why a team of researchers designed a study to examine the differences in food intake among older adults with varied appetite levels. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers looked at data from 2,597 people between the ages of 70 and 79. Nearly 22 percent of the people in the study described their appetite as “poor.” The researchers interviewed the participants using a 108-item survey to estimate how much food they ate. Continue reading

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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