How Poor Vision and Peripheral Vascular Disease Affect Balance

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Having trouble getting around and being unable to socialize or manage household chores, such as shopping, can make life less enjoyable. What’s more, when you have difficulties getting around on your own, it can lead to long-term nursing care—and even death—for older adults.

One of the keys to maintaining good mobility is having good balance while you perform your daily tasks. Good balance depends on input from:

  • Your vision system
  • Your balance (vestibular) system
  • Your muscle system, including information on how your muscles interact with each other

Finally, your nerves, muscles, and bones must also work together to maintain your posture and movement.

Diseases that affect any of those systems may affect your balance. And if you have a problem with more than one system, it can magnify and worsen the effect on your balance. Experts know that poor vision is a risk factor for poor balance, especially when an older adult is doing complex balancing tasks like standing on one foot.

A team of researchers decided to learn whether poor vision would be more strongly related to standing balance in older adults who had peripheral vascular disease (a common circulation problem that affects the legs) or diabetes. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

How Weight Loss is Linked to Future Health for Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Studies describing the effects of weight loss on health rarely consider age. However, weight loss during middle age likely has different effects on your health than does weight loss when you’re 65-years-old or older—especially when you’re older than 85.

Although some studies have found that weight loss in older adults is generally linked to an increase in illness and death, researchers say that these studies were either too short or were based on information that may have been interpreted incorrectly.

However, one study about fractures and osteoporosis (a medical condition in which bones become thin, lose density, and become increasingly fragile) looked specifically at health and weight for women who were over age 65. Reviewing more than 20 years’ worth of data for study participants, the team of researchers responsible for this study had the chance to examine links between long-term weight gain/loss and health. Their findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Managing Multiple Health Conditions: What Care Recipients and Caregivers Want Each Other to Know

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

In the United States, four out of five older adults have multiple chronic health conditions. Many of these people rely on the active support of a family caregiver to help manage their conditions.

Studies of older adults with dementia and their caregivers have shown that very often, the older adult’s desire to be self-sufficient often clashes with the caregiver’s concerns about the individual’s safety. However, researchers have also identified areas of friction among older adults who do not have dementia and their caregivers.

For example, according to one study among older adults who have severe heart disease, these individuals don’t appreciate unwanted or excessive phone contact—or advice they haven’t requested—from family and friends. In another study, older adults with lupus (an autoimmune disease caused when your immune system attacks your own body tissue) said they’d received advice from friends and family that they felt wasn’t well-informed. They also reported they received support that felt “overprotective.”

Noting that we need more understanding of caregiver and care recipient relationships, a research team designed a study using interviews with caregivers and the older adults receiving care. These interviews were designed to explore experiences, attitudes, and preferences about caregiving relationships. The study appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Does Chemotherapy Harm Ability to Function for Older Women with Breast Cancer?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Older women are at higher risk for developing breast cancer than younger women are—almost half of all breast cancer cases, and most breast cancer deaths, occur in women who are 65 or older. Despite this, we know very little about how breast cancer and its treatments affect older women. In particular, we don’t fully understand how the disease and chemotherapy treatments affect a woman’s ability to function and perform daily activities.

For older adults, knowing how chemotherapy may affect you is important, especially if there’s a chance it could affect your ability to live independently. Understanding your risk for such problems would be good information to have when it comes to choosing treatments.

To learn more about how breast cancer and its treatments might affect older women’s abilities to function, a team of researchers designed a study. They published their results in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Physical Therapy in the Emergency Department after a Fall May Help Reduce Future Fall-Related Visits to the Emergency Department

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Falls are the leading cause of illness and death among Americans aged 65 and older. In 2014, some 2.8 million older adults visited the emergency department (ED) for a fall-related injury. And over time, the ED visit rate for falls among older adults has grown to 68.8 per 1,000 older adults (as of 2010).

Older adults who visit the ED for a fall are at high risk for both revisiting the ED and dying. In fact, some estimates show that 25 percent of older adults visiting the ED for a fall returned for at least one additional fall-related visit. Fifteen percent of those older adults died within the following year.

Because so many older adults visit an ED due to falls, many experts see an opportunity for EDs to play a role in reducing future falls among older adults who are at high risk.

In a new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers explored whether older adults who received physical therapy (PT) services while in the ED for a fall experienced fewer fall-related repeat visits to the ED.

The research team used Medicare claims data representing Medicare beneficiaries from across the country. The information examined differences in 30-day and 60-day ED repeat visit rates among older adults who visited the ED for a fall and who received PT services in the ED. The researchers compared that to older adults who did not receive PT services in the ED after a fall. Continue reading