Regular Physical Activity Can Maintain or Improve Frailty

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Frailty is the medical term for becoming weaker or experiencing lower levels of activity or energy. Becoming frail as we age increases our risk for poor health, falls, disability, and other serious concerns.

Aging increases the risks for becoming frail. As more of us live longer, it’s likely that frailty will pose a larger public health problem in the near future. Experts in geriatrics (the field of health care focused on care for older adults) suggest that maintaining a healthy lifestyle may reduce your chances of becoming frail.

One aspect of a healthy lifestyle is getting regular physical activity. However, studies on the association between physical activity and frailty among older adults show different results. Some studies suggest that regular physical activity could delay frailty and reduce its severity, but other studies do not. And most of the studies have examined people aged 50 to 70, so the information we have for people over age 70 is limited.

To address this gap, researchers conducted a new study as part of a European project that promotes healthy aging in older adults. They examined the benefits of assistance that helps older adults follow their prescribed medications and prevent falls, frailty, and loneliness. The participants received care at study sites in five European countries (Spain, Greece, Croatia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom). The study results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

COVID-19: Addressing Elder Abuse, Social Isolation, and Other Key Concerns

By now, we’re all aware that COVID-19 poses heightened risks to older adults. The CDC reports that eight out of 10 deaths in the United States have been in people aged 65 and older.

But becoming infected with this potentially deadly virus isn’t the only risk that warrants our careful attention. Older adults face other COVID-19 related challenges, including issues that can impact emotional, physical, and even financial wellness. Reports of elder abuse (the mistreatment of someone because of their age) in its several terrible forms are sadly on the rise. But there are steps we can all take to help support those who need us.

“This is a test and I hope we pass it,” says Laura Mosqueda, MD. Dr. Mosqueda is Dean of the Keck School of Medicine, USC, and codirector of the National Center on Elder Abuse. Dr. Mosqueda shared her worries with us about the health and safety of older adults during this global pandemic. She is particularly concerned about four key issues that target older adults.

Social Isolation

“To me, what’s really interesting right now is that we know that the dangers of social isolation are really significant for older adults. In fact, we’ve been making all kinds of public health statements about just how dangerous social isolation is,” Dr. Mosqueda notes. “And now we’re telling everyone to socially isolate and to practice social distancing.”

Vulnerability to Financial Abuse

Because of this social isolation, older adults are now potentially more vulnerable to things like financial scams. This is because they may no longer have friends or family members dropping in regularly. According to Dr. Mosqueda, “these days, when an older adult just needs to get a home repair or something done, they don’t have as many people around who might be advocating for their best interests.” Continue reading

During the Coronavirus Crisis: Things to Consider if Someone You Care for is in Long-Term Care

If you are caring for someone who lives in a long-term care facility, you may have questions about their care and well-being during the coronavirus crisis. You’ve probably wondered whether it would be safer to take them out of the nursing home and move them into your home.

We put some of the questions you may be asking to Sharon K. Inouye, MD, MPH, Director, Aging Brain Center, Milton and Shirley F. Levy Family Chair Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“These are very difficult and individual decisions for each family. There is no right or wrong situation, just a balance of the specific considerations,” says Dr. Inouye. “I had to consider this for my own mother. Ultimately, we were unable to move her out of her facility because our home was not set up for her safety (too many stairs, lack of adapted bathrooms, narrow hallways that would not permit her walker).”

Dr. Inouye noted other hazards at her sister’s home (who lives closest to her mother). Her children who are home from school might pose an exposure risk. Her family also has pets who could create fall risks.

“The facility where my mother lives has outstanding infection control processes and procedures in place, with a highly trained staff. So, with difficulty, we made the decision to keep her in the facility. Five weeks later, after one documented case of COVID-19, my mother remains safe without any additional cases. This turned out to be the right decision for our family, but it was a very difficult one—and obviously, had more cases emerged, it might have shifted the equation for us,” Dr. Inouye said.

Questions to Consider Continue reading

Avoiding COVID-19 Scams

Unfortunately, some people—including criminals—often look for opportunities to take advantage of others during times of national crisis. The current COVID-19 pandemic creates a perfect environment for lawbreakers who may be targeting vulnerable victims. Very often, their targets may be older adults.

Here are some effective defenses to help stop criminals in their tracks. Arm yourself with these smart strategies to protect yourself and your family against scammers.

First Step

Make sure to fact-check all the COVID-19 information you receive. Don’t share any messages about the virus on social media or email—or even in conversation with friends and loved ones—unless you verify the information is from a trusted source. Look to government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you’re unsure about a news item or piece of information, use a fact-checking website such as www.snopes.com. Continue reading

Advice for Caregivers: Older Adults and COVID-19

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused a worldwide pandemic that has changed how we live, as governments worldwide seek to limit the spread of this disease. We are being asked to stay at home, businesses are closed, and there have been shortages of the basic necessities of daily life.

These are stressful times for all of us, and even more so for adults age 65 and older or individuals with multiple chronic conditions, since they are at higher risk for severe complications if they contract COVID-19.

One way to help your older family members, neighbors, or friends to navigate these challenging times is to be sure they are aware of basic advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  that you can share with older adults:

  • The safest thing to do is to stay home. If you must go out for essential errands, stay six feet away from other people. (Six feet equals about two arm lengths.). If you are sick, you must stay home.
  • Also avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep six feet away from them at all times.
  • Wash your hands often. Wash for at least 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday song twice).
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that you frequently touch.
  • Avoid all cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
  • If you are sick, or have concerns about COVID-19 and an underlying health condition, call your healthcare professional.

Continue reading