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

Skin Diseases are Common in Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, our skin changes in ways that can make it more prone to disease. That’s because older skin is less oily, less elastic, and thinner. It bruises easily and can take a long time to heal when cut.

Although skin disorders are common in older adults, few studies have examined the connection between aging and skin disease. The studies we do have are mostly collected from specific groups of older adults, such as nursing home residents or those who have been treated in hospitals.

However, we do know that two studies of health records for large groups of older adults show that the most common skin diseases in older people are eczema, skin infections, and pruritus (severely dry and itchy skin). Recently, a research team designed a study to learn more about how common skin diseases are in adults aged 70 and older. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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Cancer Prevention and Screening for Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Improved cancer screening and treatment, along with much lower rates of tobacco use, have led to a decrease in cancer diagnoses and deaths. However, because the risk for many cancers increases as people age, it is still the second most common cause of death in older adults after heart disease.

Cancer prevention is important for older adults in order to reduce deaths and prevent the poor quality of life that can be caused by advanced cancer and treatment side effects. Efforts focus on preventing cancer as well as identifying the disease in its early stages by using screening tests. When someone is diagnosed with an early-stage cancer, they are likely to require less extensive treatment and have a better chance for recovery.

Recently, a research team offered new information and guidance for healthcare providers about cancer screening and prevention for older adults. They published their guidance in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. According to the researchers, healthcare practitioners need to fully understand how a particular cancer will impact an older adult. They also need to consider the effectiveness, drawbacks, and expense of cancer prevention and screening. Finally, health care practitioners need to understand how well a person will fare—with and without cancer treatment—when they discuss cancer screening with older adults. Continue reading

Does Having Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Affect Severity of Delirium?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, gradually affect your cognitive function by harming your memory and your ability to think and make decisions. By 2050, experts project that 13.8 million older adults in the United States will develop Alzheimer’s disease and related Dementias (ADRD). Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, other forms include Lewy Body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia—all of which have upsetting consequences for people with dementia and their families.

Since no cure or treatment yet exists for ADRD, healthcare providers currently focus on preventing the treatable risk factors that can lead to dementia. This strategy could potentially slow the onset and progression of ADRD.

Hospitalization poses risks to people with ADRD and can have life-threatening consequences, including predisposing us to delirium (the medical term for a rapid change in mental state, often marked by confusion), a decline in mental or physical function, being admitted to long-term care facilities, and even death.

In particular, delirium can worsen the course of an illness, quicken physical and mental decline, lengthen hospital stays, and cause higher rates of hospital re-admission and death. One in 8 hospitalized people with ADRD who develops delirium will have at least one serious problem, including cognitive decline, possibly leading to admission to long-term care or death.

Here’s the good news: Experts say 30 to 40 percent of delirium cases are preventable. But until now, we have not studied how delirium and its severity affect hospitalized older adults with and without ADRD. Continue reading