Issue Brief: Socially Vulnerable Older Adults & Medical-Legal Partnerships

A new issue brief  from the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnerships at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health describes the pressing legal needs facing older adults, and ways that partnerships between clinical settings and legal assistance providers can address social determinants of health, preserve independence, and improve their care.

In a medical-legal partnership (MLP), lawyers become an important part of the health care team, taking referrals and providing consultations. “As the U.S. population ages,
MLP is a promising approach to support older adults and their families in navigating fragmented and confusing systems of care, optimize choice and self-determination, and protect and promote health and well-being,” the brief concludes.

Full story at acl.gov

Tighter Blood Pressure Control May Prevent Brain Lesions

Reducing high blood pressure in the elderly appears to lower their odds of developing brain lesions, a new study finds.

“I think it’s an important clinical finding, and a very hopeful one for elderly people who have vascular disease of the brain and [high blood pressure],” said study co-principal investigator Dr. William White. He’s a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

Over time, high systolic blood pressure (top number in a reading) can damage small arteries deep in the brain. Reduced blood flow to the brain can lead to areas of damaged nerve cells (lesions) in the brain’s white matter.

Full story at US News

10 minutes of leisurely activity per week may lower death risk

New research suggests that adults over the age of 40 who engage in leisurely physical activity — such as dancing, gardening, or going for a walk — for even a short amount of time each week may have a lower risk of death from multiple causes.

Previous research has shown that engaging even in low-level physical activity — including leisurely tasks, such as gardening — may help protect brain health and cardiovascular health, among other benefits.

Now, a recent observational study, working with tens of thousands of people aged 40 and over has found a link between a lower risk of death from different causes and low levels of physical activity.

Full story at Medical News Today

Smarter automatic defibrillator

Thousands of patients with congestive heart failure benefit from automatic implantable cardiac defibrillators (AICDs) that deliver shocks to the heart to correct abnormal heart rhythms. These defibrillators improve survival in patients who are at risk for sudden cardiac death.

AICDs administer shocks based on data from intra-cardiac electrocardiograms (ECGs) obtained from leads that measure the heart’s electrical activity. However, do these devices receive enough information to shock accurately in all cases?

“Existing systems in patients primarily sense the ECG,” said Marc D. Feldman, M.D., professor of cardiology at UT Health San Antonio. “They don’t sense blood pressure or stroke volume — how much blood is being pumped out of the heart. Since physicians in the emergency room measure blood pressure and stroke volume at the time of an abnormal heart rhythm before deciding to shock the patient, we believe AICDs should do the same.”

Full story at Science Daily

Dementia looks different in brains of Hispanics

A major new study from the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Center has uncovered dramatic differences in the brains of Hispanics with a dementia diagnosis compared with those of non-Hispanic whites and of African Americans.

The first-of-its-kind study, based on extensive analyses of autopsied brains, found that Hispanics diagnosed with dementia were much more likely to have cerebrovascular disease than either non-Hispanic whites or African Americans. Researchers also found that Hispanics and African Americans were more likely to have mixed pathologies, that is, a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease, than non-Hispanic whites. And non-Hispanic whites were shown to have more pure Alzheimer’s disease than either Hispanics or African Americans.

Published today in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the findings may help explain the higher rates of dementia among blacks and Hispanics, and point to the importance of treating each patient based on their individual risk factors.

Full story at Science Daily

Napping may be as good as drugs for lowering blood pressure

A midday nap may be just what you need, not just to boost your energy levels but also to lower high blood pressure. This, at least, is what new research from Greece suggests.

When the afternoon slump hits in the middle of a busy workday, many of us may feel tempted to catch some shut-eye in a quiet corner.

Daytime napping can definitely help boost our energy levels and productivity for the rest of the workday, but does it bring any other health benefits?

A new study that investigators from the Asklepieion General Hospital in Voula, Greece conducted now suggests that taking a nap at midday can effectively help people lower their blood pressure levels.

Full story at Medical News Today

Report finds few seniors are getting routine memory checkups

Few seniors get their thinking and memory abilities regularly tested during check-ups, according to a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association that raises questions about how best to find out if a problem is brewing.

Medicare pays for an annual “wellness visit” that is supposed to include what’s called a cognitive assessment — a brief check for some early warning signs of dementia, so people who need a more thorough exam can get one.

But doctors aren’t required to conduct a specific test, and there’s little data on how often they perform these cognitive snapshots.

About half of seniors say they’ve ever discussed thinking or memory with a health care provider, and less than a third say they’ve ever been assessed for possible cognitive problems, according to an Alzheimer’s Association survey being released Tuesday.

Full story at NBC News

What to Look for in a Geriatric Care Manager

WHEN OLDER ADULTS CAN no longer care for themselves, it’s usually up to their family members to take over the responsibility. But it’s hard to know where to begin managing the care of someone who has chronic health conditions, requires frequent doctor visits and needs assistance at home – which may be in another town. “Families are often overwhelmed and ask, ‘What do we do? How do we handle this?’” says Nancy Avitabile, president of the board of directors of the Aging Life Care Association.

Avitabile is an aging life care manager (also known as a geriatric care manager), a type of elder care professional trained to jump into these challenging situations and offer solutions, guidance and hands-on management.

“It’s not uncommon for adult children to involve a geriatric care manager when things are getting complicated with a new diagnosis or a change in function or cognition, especially when the family lives far away and they need guidance on which options are available,” says Dr. Christine Ritchie, a geriatrician, palliative care physician and professor at the University of California—San Francisco School of Medicine.

Full story at US News

Pooch Peril: More Elderly Are Fracturing Bones While Dog Walking

Walking the dog can be great exercise for seniors, but there could be one downside: bone fractures.

Fractures suffered by elderly Americans while walking their dogs have more than doubled in recent years, new research shows.

Still, taking your dog for a walk can also bring big health rewards, one joint specialist said.

“Pets can provide companionship for older adults, and the physical exercise from regularly walking a dog may improve other aspects of physical and psychological health,” said Dr. Matthew Hepinstall, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

Full story at US News

Senate hearing examines ‘devastating’ nursing home abuse

The phone rang shortly before Christmas in 2014.

When Maya Fischer answered, a nurse from the nursing home where her mother had been staying for more than a decade was on the other end of the line. In her Minnesota home, Fischer braced herself for difficult news.
“When you receive a phone call from the nursing home, your first thought is that … my mother has passed,” Fischer said.
The news was indeed troubling, but it was not what she expected.
“I was not at all prepared for the call that I received. … The call that my mother had been a victim of a sexual assault in her nursing home,” Fischer said. “For me and my family, it’s been devastating.”