For Older Adults, Preventing Flu is Key to Lessening Disability Risks

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

We tend to think of the flu as an illness that people recover from within a relatively short time. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for older adults, who are more likely to experience difficulties getting around and living independently following a serious illness. Adding to the problem is the potential for additional health problems that can occur during a stay in the hospital. Hospitalized older adults potentially face delirium, an abrupt change in mental function which causes sudden confusion. They are also susceptible to hospital-acquired infections and can weaken if they lose their physical conditioning.

In fact, studies show that one-third of older adults will be discharged from the hospital with a new disability — and only 30 percent of them will regain their pre-admission ability levels for bathing, dressing, feeding themselves, and managing other activities of daily living, even one year after their discharge.

A decline in your ability to take care of yourself can mean a greater need for in-home support, admission to a long-term care facility, and even an increased risk of death.

That’s why a team of researchers designed a study to learn more about functional decline (the ability to take care of yourself) and serious disability in adults, aged 65 years and older, who are admitted to hospital for influenza and other acute respiratory illnesses. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Delirium Screening in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Delirium and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) can play a role in the mental decline of older adults who enter skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) for rehabilitation after being hospitalized. Healthcare practitioners may mistake these conditions for each other or even overlook them, even though they are distinct conditions and require different treatments.

Delirium is a term that means “sudden confusion. ” It is an abrupt, rapid change in mental function that goes well beyond the typical forgetfulness of aging. Delirium is a result of abnormal functioning of the brain and requires the attention of a healthcare professional.

On the other hand, ADRD is a progressive and chronic decline in your cognitive abilities. You can have delirium and ADRD at the same time. In fact, new research reveals that delirium is a strong predictor of new ADRD cases. About 15 percent of older adults admitted to SNFs after being hospitalized have delirium, and patients with delirium have a nearly 13 percent increased risk of receiving a new diagnosis of ADRD over the next four years.

Delirium and ADRD can be difficult for healthcare practitioners to tell apart, and older adults can have both conditions at the same time. However, the two conditions have not been studied together in older adults admitted to skilled nursing facilities.

In order to learn more about the relationship between delirium detection and a potentially premature or inappropriate diagnosis of ADRD, researchers conducted a study. They based their findings on their examination of Medicare data from 2011-2013 for new nursing home admissions. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Importance of Preventing Delirium in Hospitalized Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Though fever and respiratory problems are typically the most common symptoms of COVID-19, worrisome neurologic symptoms also occur in older adults. For example, in a study in Wuhan, China, 36 percent of older COVID patients had neurologic complaints, such as dizziness, pain, sleep disturbances, and problems with balance. Eight percent had impaired consciousness.

What’s more, geriatrics experts suggest that older age is also a risk factor for delirium, a term that means “sudden confusion.” Delirium refers to an abrupt, rapid change in mental function that goes well beyond the typical forgetfulness of aging. The result of abnormal functioning of the brain, delirium requires the attention of a healthcare professional.

Healthcare practitioners have seen delirium affect patients hospitalized with infectious diseases, including severe respiratory diseases. Delirium can mean that a person has suffered an acute brain failure, which could be caused by dehydration, psychoactive drugs, or infection. Delirium can increase the length of an older adult’s hospital stay and can cause mobility problems as well as difficulty thinking and making decisions. This can lead to older adults’ need for long-term care and raises their risk of death.

In severe cases, COVID-19 causes serious lung problems. When this happens to someone hospitalized for the virus, the patient may need mechanical ventilation to help them breathe, which can lead to delirium.

A recent study showed that 26 out of 40 patients with severe COVID-19 infection had signs of delirium. But despite this early evidence, we know little about the effects of delirium on people with COVID-19. A team of geriatrics experts from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, created a study to learn more about delirium in older adults hospitalized with COVID-19. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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In Japan, Driving Skill Training for Older Drivers Enhances Safety

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

More older adults in the US are driving than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, 56 percent more older adults were on the road in 2016 than in 1999. But as age increases, so do the risks for having a crash while driving. In 2016 (the last year for which statistics are available), motor vehicle crashes killed about 7,700 people over the age of 65 in this country, and 290,000 more were injured.

According to the CDC< fatal automobile crash rates spike between ages 70 to 74, and are highest among drivers 85 and older. These older drivers’ deaths are caused as much by their increased frailty and medical complications as by their increased risk of crashes. Age-related vision problems, the ability to think and make decisions, and age-related physical changes such as arthritis pain may also affect the ability of older adults to safely operate a motor vehicle.

As in the U.S., Japan’s population of older drivers has also grown. A national traffic safety report noted that over five million people in Japan aged 75 years or older — one in three people — had a driver’s license. The rate of fatal crashes for those aged 75 or older gradually increased from 7.4 percent in 2006 to 13.5 percent in 2016. Continue reading

Healthy Lifestyle Habits May Lower the Risk for Developing Dementia

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Can your eating habits and physical and mental activity lower your risk for developing dementia as you age? Obviously, it is important to learn all we can about how health habits affect the risks for developing dementia, a debilitating decline in memory and other mental abilities. Experts say that the number of people with dementia worldwide is expected to rise to 82 million by 2030 and to over 152 million by 2050.

A team of researchers designed a study to learn more about whether adopting healthier lifestyle habits can help prevent or slow the onset of dementia. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers suggest that prevention strategies should focus on lowering dementia risk for people who are starting to experience cognitive decline, specifically subjective cognitive decline (SCD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Continue reading