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

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

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

“Real Work for Real Wages”: New Resources Explain Employment First

“Nothing about us without us” is at the core of the disability rights movement, and active participation in policy making by people with disabilities is the driving force behind continued advances in inclusion, integration, and equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

However, “policy speak” — including jargon, acronyms, and obscure legal references — can make it very difficult for people to understand information that affects their lives and effectively leave many people out of important policy discussions. This can disproportionately affect people with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and limited English proficiency.

Full story at Administration for Community Living

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

Beyond Bingo: Innovative Activities at Today’s Nursing Homes

Bingo, Bible study and birthday parties – at some nursing homes, that’s as good as it gets. Traditionally, long-term care facilities have come up short in the activities realm, relying on old standbys that aren’t meaningful or particularly enjoyable. But change and innovation have arrived, which means seniors could be belting karaoke tunes one night and watching comedy on YouTube the next.

“We’re past just trying to fill time,” says Natalie Davis, a Dallas-based consultant who specializes in gerontology and teaches courses on developing activities for long-term care residents. “We want to enrich their lives.” Here’s a sampling of some innovative nursing home activities:

Full story at US News