8 Ways to Ease Holiday Isolation for Older Adults

Holidays can heighten loneliness.

The household baker who loaded platters with red-and-green frosted cookies. The grandfather who proudly carved the massive turkey. The mom who was a wrapping-paper whiz. The neighbor whose outdoor decorations outshone the entire block. The dad who carefully lit the menorah. The parents who planned amazing family trips for winter breaks. The jovial host who filled guests’ glasses with eggnog or champagne. As they grow older, the people in your life who once made holidays special could use some cheer and attention themselves. Here’s how you can help them celebrate and feel connected.

Full story at US News

Unlocking the secrets of how cells communicate offers insights into treating diseases

Portland State University researchers have made a significant breakthrough by developing the 3-D structure of proteins from inside the eye lens that control how cells communicate with each other, which could open the door to treating diseases such as cataracts, stroke and cancer.

The PSU research team, led by chemistry professor Steve Reichow, used a multimillion-dollar microscope and a novel technique developed by three Nobel Prize-winning biophysicists called cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) to view membrane protein channels — or transportation tunnels in cell walls — at the atomic level. This allowed Reichow’s team, whose research is supported by the National Institutes of Health, to create a 3-D image of the membrane channel to better understand the processes involved in cell-to-cell communication.

Portland State researchers used Cryo-EM — a microscope technique that freezes biomolecules in mid-movement and takes ultra-high-resolution images — and computer modeling to see the 3-D structure of gap junction proteins that had been isolated from eye lenses. Gap junctions are tiny channels that allow neighboring cells to communicate with one another and are found in many places throughout the body.

Full story at Science Daily

Sudoku, Puzzles, Won’t Slow Mental Decline

DOING “BRAIN exercises,” such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles later in life won’t protect against mental decline, according to a new study.

Brain games, such as number or word challenges, have been widely promoted as ways for people to keep their brains sharp into old age. However, a study published Monday in The BMJ suggests that may not be so.

Instead, the study found that people who did mental activities regularly throughout their life had superior cognitive abilities to those who didn’t do such activities. Still, this regular exercise will not cause people’s mental capabilities to decline any more slowly later in life.

Instead, people who participate in brain stimulating activities will begin their late-life mental decline from a higher point than people who do not exercise their brain.

Full story at US News

Will you really need a geriatrician when you’re 65?

Once, turning 65 typically meant retirement, Medicare and the inevitable onset of physical decline. It also often signaled the need to search for a geriatrician, a doctor who specializes in caring for the complex medical problems of the elderly.

But many of today’s older Americans are healthy, vigorous and mentally sound, with no urgent need to change doctors. They aren’t afflicted with age-related diseases or functional impairments. This raises interesting questions about when — and whether — those 65 and older need to make that switch.

Seeing a geriatrician “should never be age specific,” says Nir Barzilai, a longevity researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Biological age and chronological age are not the same. Asking what age to start seeing a geriatrician is not the right question. The right questions are: What conditions do you have? Are you mobile? Are you starting to get frail? Are you losing weight, or not walking well? Can you shop? Can you get to your apartment? Can you live by yourself?”

Full story at the Washington Post

Statins have low risk of side effects

The cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins have demonstrated substantial benefits in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots (ischemic strokes) in at-risk patients. Since statins are associated with a low risk of side effects, the benefits of taking them outweigh the risks, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association that reviewed multiple studies evaluating the safety and potential side effects of these drugs. It is published in the Association’s journal Circulation: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

According to the statement, one in four Americans over the age of 40 takes a statin drug, but up to 10 percent of people in the United States stop taking them because they experience symptoms that they may assume are due to the drug, but may not be.

“In most cases, you should not stop taking your statin medication if you think you are having side effects from the drug — instead, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Stopping a statin can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke caused by a blocked artery,” said Mark Creager, M.D., former president of the American Heart Association and director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Full story at Science Daily

What role do brain lipids play in Parkinson’s disease?

New research looks to brain lipids to identify a new therapeutic target for Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that affects about half a million people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

One of the main characteristics of this condition is the buildup of alpha-synuclein, a type of protein that forms into toxic plaques, in the brain.

Earlier this year, a study that featured in the journal Neurobiology of Aging suggested that there may be a link between the levels of certain brain lipids, or fat molecules, and the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Full story at Medical News Today

Senior Care Centers Files for Bankruptcy, Blaming ‘Expensive Leases’

Senior Care Centers announced Tuesday that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The move will allow Senior Care Centers, which has almost 10,000 residents and nearly 11,000 employees, address “burdensome debt levels and expensive leases,” according to a press release announcing the bankruptcy filing.

Senior Care Centers will continue paying vendors for the goods and services provided during the Chapter 11 process, in addition to continuing to cover payroll, according to the company.

“After careful analysis, we determined that the protections afforded by the Chapter 11 process are the best way to address the company’s debt and costly leases while allowing us to continue to provide all the top-level care and support our residents deserve,” Kevin O’Halloran, Senior Care Centers’ chief restructuring officer, said in the release.

Full story at Skilled Nursing News

What Activities Are Best for Seniors in Assisted Living or a Nursing Home?

WHEN IT COMES TIME TO find the right assisted living community or nursing home for your loved one, there are a lot of things to consider in finding the right fit, such as the quality of the medical care, fees and location. But in the scramble to find a good place for your loved one, it’s also important to consider the quality of life they’ll find in that community and whether they’ll be supported in living their best life possible.

Finding and engaging in appropriate activities for seniors – and these can run the gamut from hobbies and physical exercise to social events and outings – is a major component of a high quality of life for older adults in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. That’s because socialization and eliminating loneliness and isolation among older adults is a crucial component of staying healthy in our later years. “It’s a critical part of well-being to be able to interact with others and to have those social connections,” says Dr. Tanya Gure, section chief of geriatrics and associate clinical professor in internal medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Full story at US News

 

Medicare Cuts Payments To Nursing Homes Whose Patients Keep Ending Up In Hospital

The federal government has taken a new step to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions of nursing home patients by lowering a year’s worth of payments to nearly 11,000 nursing homes. It gave bonuses to nearly 4,000 others.

These financial incentives, determined by each home’s readmission rates, significantly expand Medicare’s effort to pay medical providers based on the quality of care instead of just the number or condition of their patients. Until now, Medicare limited these kinds of incentives mostly to hospitals, which have gotten used to facing financial repercussions if too many of their patients are readmitted, suffer infections or other injuries, or die.

“To some nursing homes, it could mean a significant amount of money,” said Thomas Martin, director of post-acute care analytics at CarePort Health, which works for both hospitals and nursing homes. “A lot are operating on very small margins.”

Full story at Kaiser Health News

National Family Caregivers Month 2018: Celebrating a Year of Accomplishment

We hear repeatedly that without family caregivers, our long-term services system would be stretched to the breaking point. Family caregivers make it possible for so many of our nation’s citizens to remain independent, living in the settings of their choice.

Supporting families and family caregivers in their efforts to assist their friends and loved ones is at the very core of the mission of the Administration for Community Living. That gives us a tremendous opportunity to advance how we think about supporting families that include older adults who need assistance in their later years, people with disabilities at every stage of their lives, or both. We also have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of real people, through programs that provide support to families and caregivers.

Every November, we stop to recognize and thank family caregivers for all they do on behalf of their loved ones.  This year, I think we have even more reason to be thankful, to celebrate family caregivers, and to be optimistic for the future of family caregiver support.

Full story at acl.gov