Largely unrecognized role of youth caregivers illuminated in new study

‘I need this — can you grab my pills?’ ‘Can you help me with this?’ ‘Can you go in my bag and get me my medicine?’

For more than half of her 16 years, 10th grader Destiny has answered calls like this to help her grandmother and great-grandmother manage their medications.

“I’ve been helping out basically most of my life,” she said.

Despite the essential role Destiny and other youth caregivers play, little is known about how they learn to manage medications, what they know about the medicine they administer, and what kind of rewards and challenges they encounter day to day.

To find out more, Julia Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine physician-researcher and pediatrician, and colleagues studied 28 middle school and high school students 12 to 19 years old. Their study is the first of its kind to take a comprehensive look at this population; they reported their findings online in the Journal of Adolescence.

Full story at Science Daily

Using community choirs to boost well-being

Community music programs may help combat loneliness in older adults and heighten their interest in life, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

A recent study that featured in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences looked at a novel way to fight loneliness in older adults — joining a choir.

The aim of the program, called Community of Voices, was to measure the impact of art-based interventions on well-being and quality of life.

People are now living longer thanks to medical and technological advances. However, as our average lifespan steadily increases, the issue of loneliness grows in parallel.

Full story at Medical News Today

Better Training, Career Development Needed for America’s Direct-Care Workforce

By 2034, all of America’s baby boomers will be over the age of 70, many living with complex health care needs and multiple chronic conditions.

A well-trained direct-care workforce will be critical to keeping those baby boomers safely in their homes as they age. Without one, experts predict, public and private insurers will struggle in meeting the population’s needs.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that works to promote bipartisanship on key issues facing the United states, highlighted the need to support the country’s direct-care workforce in a report released on Thursday.

Full story at Home Healthcare News

Bacterial pneumonia far more dangerous to the heart than viral pneumonia

Heart complications in patients diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia are more serious than in patients diagnosed with viral pneumonia, according to new research from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

In the study of nearly 5,000 patients, researchers found that patients diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia had a 60 percent greater risk of a heart attack, stroke, or death than patients who had been diagnosed with viral pneumonia.

“We’ve always known pneumonia was a risk factor for a major adverse cardiac event, like a heart attack, within the first 90 days of being diagnosed,” said J. Brent Muhlestein, MD, a cardiovascular researcher with the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center. “What we didn’t know was which type of pneumonia was more dangerous. The results of this study provided a clear answer, which will allow physicians to better monitor patients and focus on reducing their risk of a major adverse cardiac event.”

Full story at Science Daily

Could singing relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s?

According to a recent pilot study, singing therapy might reduce some of the difficult-to-treat motor and mood symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that affects more than 10 million people worldwide.

Because Parkinson’s predominantly affects older adults, as the population of the United States ages, its prevalence is increasing.

Symptoms include tremor and difficulty coordinating movements. Also, mood changes can occur, with anxiety and depression being relatively common.

Full story at Medical News Today

One of the fastest-aging US states has rejected free care for seniors

Voters in Maine were presented with a ballot measure that would have provided disabled adults or people over the age of 65 with full-time, long-term care in their own homes, at no cost to individuals or their families. It was hailed by supporters as a visionary model for ensuring support for vulnerable people, one that could be rolled out in other states as the US elder population grows.

Alas, it’s a vision whose time has not yet come. Voters in Maine soundly defeated Question 1 at the polls on Tuesday (Nov. 6).

Maine is one of the fastest-aging states in the US. People aged 65 and older there are expected to outnumber those under 18 by 2020, a full 15 years before the US as a whole reaches that crucial threshold.

The vast majority of seniors prefer to age in their own homes. The availability and affordability of in-home care in Maine, however, is among the poorest in the nation. Without access to home care, family members typically shoulder the work—along with the financial cost of their own lost wages—to care for elderly relatives.

Full story at Quartz at Work

Back pain shows significant association with mortality among older women

Researchers at Boston Medical Center found that frequent, persistent back pain is associated with earlier death in a study of more than 8,000 older women who were followed for an average of 14 years. After controlling for important sociodemographic and health factors, women who reported frequent, persistent back pain had a 24 percent increased risk of death compared to women with no back pain. Published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the study is the first to measure the impact of back pain persisting over time on mortality. The researchers also found that disability measured after back pain helped explain the association.

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and women aged 40-80 years have the highest prevalence of back pain. Also, women report more frequent and debilitating back pain compared to men. The proportion of adults over the age of 65 is increasing rapidly in the United States, and optimizing physical health in order to extend life for older adults is a well-documented public health goal.

“To our knowledge, our study is the first to measure disability after measurement of back pain. This allowed for a prospective analysis of back pain that persisted over time and later rates of disability, which may help explain the association between back pain and mortality,” said Eric Roseen, DC, MSc, a research fellow at Boston Medical Center and leading author of the study. “Our findings raise the question of whether better management of back pain across the lifespan could prevent disability, improve quality of life, and ultimately extend life.”

Full story at Science Daily

Language Barrier Means Millions Of Elderly Can’t Access Alzheimer’s Trials

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My grandmother, Bella, a former nurse in the Ukraine, moved to the United States to help raise me when I was 7 months old. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year.

There was nothing to do to prevent her inexorable loss of memory and independence, her Massachusetts General Hospital memory specialist told our family, except to take a drug called memantine that slightly improves cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, but does not treat the underlying disease.

Full story at NPR

Aging Bodies and Nimble Minds Can Go Together

REMEMBER THE jump-to-conclusions mat in the movie “Office Space?” Maybe there should be a square for concluding: “My parent’s signs of normal aging must mean dementia is around the corner.” In truth, for most adults 65 years or older, that just isn’t the case.

In 2012, about 9 percent of U.S. seniors had dementia, according to a study published January 2017 in JAMA Internal Medicine, with the prevalence of dementia declining from 11.6% in 2000. The vast majority of seniors will not develop dementia.

However, well-meaning family members are sometimes anxious about any changes they see in an older loved one. Adult children can conflate medical conditions, physical disabilities or memory slips with impending mental impairment.

Full story at US News

Experimental vaccine may reduce post-stroke blood clot risk

A vaccine may one day be able to replace oral blood thinners to reduce the risk of secondary strokes caused by blood clots, without increasing the risk of serious bleeding or triggering an autoimmune response, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

People who have had a stroke caused by a blood clot (ischemic strokes) often need to take medications that make their blood less likely to clot, which helps prevent another stroke.

Japanese researchers successfully tested an experimental vaccine in mice and found that it provided protection against blood clots for more than two months without increasing the risk of bleeding or causing an autoimmune response. The lack of an autoimmune response is important, because it means the mice’s immune system did not perceive the vaccine as an “intruder” that needed to be attacked, which would have caused a reaction to the vaccine.

Full story at Science Daily