AHA News: Lowering Blood Pressure May Prevent New Brain Lesions in Older People

Many people know treating high blood pressure reduces the odds of a heart attack, stroke or heart failure. Now, a new study suggests another added benefit: a lower risk of lesions in the brain that increase the chances of dementia, stroke and falls in older adults.

The study, published this week in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, included 199 women and men age 75 and older. They all had systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 150 or higher and brain MRIs showing lesions known as white matter hyperintensity lesions that are common in older adults.

Half of the participants were given medication to lower their systolic blood pressure to 145. The other half were given medication to decrease it to 130 or lower. After three years, MRIs showed fewer new lesions had developed in the white matter of participants whose systolic blood pressure was 130 or lower than in those whose blood pressure target was 145.

Full story at HealthDay

More aggressive blood pressure control benefits brains of older adults

A major UConn School of Medicine study published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation shows that more aggressively controlling daily blood pressure in older adults can improve brain health.

It’s been estimated that approximately two-thirds of people over the age of 75 may have damaged small blood vessels in the brain which are visible as bright white lesions on brain imaging. Prior research evidence has linked increased amounts of these white matter lesions in the brain with cognitive decline, limited mobility such as a slower walking speed, increased incidence of falls and even increased stroke risk.

The clinical trial, led by Drs. William B. White of the Calhoun Cardiology Center and Leslie Wolfson of the Department of Neurology, followed 199 hypertension patients 75 years of age and older for 3 years.

Full story at Science Daily

The Value of Pet Ownership for Older Adults

OCTOBER IS Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sponsors this event to promote the adoption of dogs from local shelters. Approximately 3.3 million dogs enter shelters every year.

Owning a pet seems like a good idea, especially for isolated seniors. Let’s go one better: Owning a dog may help you maintain a healthy heart, especially if that pet is a dog, according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes. “In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,” says Andrea Maugeri, a study researcher. “The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level.”

Full story at US News

5 Trends That Reveal the Hospice Opportunity in Senior Housing

Joanne Ford knows all too well the challenges hospice faces in senior living.

“One of the barriers for people making referrals to hospice from assisted living facilities is (AL operators say), ‘We don’t want people to see hospice in our building — please don’t wear your name tag here,’” says Ford, vice president of the AL division of Tidewell Hospice out of Sarasota, Florida. Tidewell delivers hospice services to residents in 174 AL facilities, with an overall average daily census of more than 1,100.

“We actually have corporate entities that tell their folks, ‘Don’t refer to hospice. We don’t want that image in this building,’” Ford says. She spoke with Senior Housing News for a recent deep-dive report exploring the pressing need for senior living providers to formulate hospice strategies, and the significant benefits they could see from doing so.

Full story at Senior House News

Brain protein promotes maintenance of chronic pain

A protein called RGS4 (Regulator of G protein signaling 4) plays a prominent role in the maintenance of long-term pain states and may serve as a promising new target for the treatment of chronic pain conditions, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published in print October 16, in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The discovery may help doctors stop acute pain from progressing into chronic pain, a condition in which patients experience not just pain, but a number of debilitating symptoms ranging from sensory deficits to depression and loss of motivation. The transition from acute to chronic (pathological) pain is accompanied by numerous adaptations in immune, glial, and neuronal cells, many of which are still not well understood. As a result, currently available medications for neuropathic or chronic inflammatory pain show limited efficacy and major side effects. Commonly administered opioids provide temporary alleviation of some pain symptoms, but carry serious risks like addiction in the context of long-term treatment for chronic pain. Therefore, there is an imminent need for novel approaches towards the treatment of chronic pain and for the development of medications that disrupt pain states instead of simply alleviating symptoms.

Full story at Science Daily

Phone Scammers And ‘Teledoctors’ Charged With Preying On Seniors In Fraud Case

Dean Ernest had been living in a nursing home about a year when his son, John, got a call last winter asking if his father was experiencing back pain and would like a free orthotic brace.

The caller said he was with Medicare. John Ernest didn’t believe him, said “no” to the brace and hung up. He didn’t give out his father’s Medicare number.

And yet, not just one, but 13 braces addressed to Dean arrived soon afterward at the younger Ernest’s house in central Pennsylvania — none of which Dean Ernest wanted or needed.

Full story at NPR

5 Signs It’s Time for Memory Care

YOUR AGING MOM WHO’S living with dementia has always been conscientious about opening her mail and paying her bills. You and other family members check on her regularly to see she’s OK. Yet over time, relatives notice she’s letting her mail accumulate unopened and forgetting to pay her bills.

These are potential signs that someone who’s living with dementia may need memory care, says Dr. Elaine Healy, a geriatrician and vice president of medical affairs and medical director of United Hebrew of New Rochelle in New York.

About 5.8 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Family members care for some people with dementia, and others live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Full story at US News

Tension around autonomy increases family conflict at end of life

Conflict within families can be stressful and confusing, and it can lead to feelings of sadness. It also is incredibly common and in many cases, a necessary part of family dynamics. New research from the University of Missouri highlights how caregivers can better manage family conflict as they deal with the approaching death of a loved one.

Jacquelyn Benson, assistant professor of human development and family science, found that autonomy is a central tension in caregiving at the end of life. She suggests that several strategies, including communication, formal support and emotional self-care, can be used by caregivers to address family conflict.

“Conflict is stressful, we all know that,” Benson said. “However, it also is necessary and can lead to positive change. I hope these findings will inspire alternative ways to think about family conflict when it comes to end-of-life decision-making.”

Full story at Science Daily

The Visitors’ Guide to Nursing Homes

IF YOU WANT TO BRIGHTEN a loved one’s day, visit him or her in a nursing home. “It’s one of the most wonderful things you can really do, to continue to be there,” says Anne Weisbrod, director of social services at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York. “It may not be the home you grew up in or the home you remember, but this is their home now.”

Tips for a Good Nursing Home Visit

To help you get the most enjoyment from your time together, long-term care experts and a family caregiver offer guidelines for successful nursing home visits. Here are some of their top take-home messages:

  • Shared activities help break the ice. Working on a puzzle or adding photos to an album together can stimulate conversation.

Full story at US News

New Data Profile: Users of National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) Services

ACL has released a data profile using data from the Caregiver Outcome Evaluation Study of the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). This data profile, “Users of National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) Services,” compares characteristics of caregivers that are NFCSP service users and area agencies on aging (AAA) clients, with caregivers who are AAA clients only, in addition to caregivers who are neither. This data profile examines characteristics of caregivers including age, relationship to care recipient, and level of caregiving intensity.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) conducted an outcome evaluation of the Older Americans Act Title III-E National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP).The NFCSP provides grants to states and territories to fund various supports that help family and informal caregivers care for older adults in their homes for as long as possible. The Caregiver Outcome Evaluation Study of the NFCSP was released in 2018.

Full story at Administration for Community Living