A tale of love, family conflict and battles over care for an aging mother

“Edith + Eddie,” a short documentary vying for an Academy Award Sunday, is a gripping look at a couple in their 90s caught up in an intense family conflict over caring for an aging parent. As a columnist who covers aging, I’m familiar with such stories. But as I immersed myself in the details of this case, I found myself reaching a familiar conclusion: real life is more complicated than in the movies.

On my first viewing, the events depicted in the 29-minute film were unsettling. It begins in the fall of 2014 with Edith Hill, 96, and Eddie Harrison, 95, who were married only a few months before, enjoying a series of intimate moments — dancing together, holding hands, exercising and chatting comfortably. It ends months later with the couple being separated by Edith’s court-appointed legal guardian, with police on the scene, and Edith taken off abruptly to Florida. Shockingly, Eddie died only a few weeks later.

Full story at news-medical.net

What Are the Secrets to Aging Well?

Numbers are important to Jan Sirota, a retired investment banker who lives in Sarasota, Florida. Sirota just celebrated 11 years of marriage, he cycles 40 miles per day, mentors four high school students and races cars 150 miles per hour in High Performance Driver Education events. The number that doesn’t seem to matter? His age.

“I’m 75, and it’s irrelevant to me,” Sirota says. “There’s no reason to say that I’ll slow down because I’m getting older.”

Many older adults do slow down, however, when faced with chronic disease, disability or isolation. So why is it that some people, like Sirota, can escape that fate and live vibrantly later in life? “Certainly genetics play a big part in this, and then of course luck. However, I don’t want anyone to think we can’t fight destiny a little bit,” says Dr. Patricia Harris, a geriatrician and professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Full story at US News

Stretchable electronics a ‘game changer’ for stroke recovery treatment

A groundbreaking new wearable designed to be worn on the throat could be a game-changer in the field of stroke rehabilitation.

Developed in the lab of Northwestern University engineering professor John A. Rogers, in partnership with Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the sensor is the latest in Rogers’ growing portfolio of stretchable electronics that are precise enough for use in advanced medical care and portable enough to be worn outside the hospital, even during extreme exercise.

Rogers will present research on the implications of stretchable electronics for stroke recovery treatment on Feb. 17, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

Full story at Science Daily

Two Funding Opportunities Open for Traumatic Brain Injury State Partnership Program

ACL’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) State Partnership Program is announcing two new funding opportunities.

The purpose of the program is to create and strengthen a system of services and supports that maximizes the independence, well-being, and health of persons with TBI across the lifespan, their families, and their caregivers. The goal is two-fold: to allow states to strengthen and group their capacity to support and maintain a system of services and supports that will help people with TBI; and learn from and call upon the expertise of states that have built and maintained a strong and sophisticated state TBI infrastructure.

TBI State Partnership Program Partner State Grants – These grants will provide funding to states for building and enhancing basic infrastructure of TBI supports and services. Applicants must agree to provide the required 2:1 state match; support a state TBI advisory council; provide at least one dedicated staff person at 50% FTE; create an annual TBI state plan; create and/or expand a state TBI registry; and work with one or more Mentor States to increase the applicant’s capacity to provide access to comprehensive and coordinated services for individuals with TBI and their families.

Full story at acl.gov

Battling Pervasive Ageism

Older people who have negative views about their aging live on average 7.5 years less than people with positive attitudes. In fact, they walk more slowly, experience memory problems and recover less fully from a fall or fracture, among other things. Their attitude literally pulls them down.

And yet, how can older people help feeling negative, especially given how pervasive ageism is in the worldwide culture? In the World Values Survey” analyzed by the World Health Organization, 60 percent of respondents reported that older people are not respected. The lowest levels of respect came from the highest income countries.

New York Times reporter Frank Bruni saw ageism in action when he met Nancy Root on a cruise. Despite her high intellect, curiosity and determination, she was alienated by others. It’s a compelling story and shows ageism (and disability) in action.

Full story at US News Health

Arm exercise improves walking ability after stroke

A new study shows that arm exercises may improve walking ability months and even years after having a stroke. The study, the first to test the influence of arm training on post-stroke leg function, is published ahead of print in the Journal of Neurophysiology. It was chosen as an APS select article for February.

Researchers from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, worked with a group of older adults who had had a stroke between 7 months and 17 years prior to the study. The volunteers participated in three 30-minute, moderate-intensity arm cycling training sessions each week for five weeks. The research team measured the volunteers’ physical abilities before and after arm training using several standardized scales and tests of physical function, including:

  • Six Minute Walk, which measures how far a person can walk in six minutes;
  • Timed 10 Meter Walk, which measures how quickly a person can walk 10 meters; and the
  • Timed Up and Go, which measures the time it takes to stand up from a seated position, walk 10 feet, turn around, walk back and sit down again.

Full story at Science Daily

Human Rights Watch Finds Nursing Homes Overmedicate Dementia Patients

Nursing homes in the U.S. are administering antipsychotic drugs to tens of thousands of elderly residents each week who do not have the diagnoses for which the drugs are prescribed and who are not giving their “free and informed consent,” according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

In a report released Monday titled, “They Want Docile,” the group states that some 179,000 residents of long-term nursing homes across the country are given antipsychotic drugs each week that are not appropriate for their condition. The report says the drugs are used for their sedating side effects, which make patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease easier to manage.

“People with dementia are often sedated to make life easier for overworked nursing home staff, and the government does little to protect vulnerable residents from such abuse,” Hannah Flamm, a New York University law school fellow at Human Rights Watch told The Guardian.

Full story at US News

Migraine linked to increased risk of cardiovascular problems

Migraine is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular problems (conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels) including heart attacks, stroke, blood clots and an irregular heart rate, say researchers in a study published by The BMJ today.

Although the absolute risks were low, the findings suggest that “migraine should be considered a potent and persistent risk factor for most cardiovascular diseases in both men and women,” say the authors.

Around one billion people worldwide are affected by migraine. It has considerable impact on quality of life and imposes a substantial burden on society.

Full story at Science Daily

Viruses that infect bacteria abound in bladder

Phages — viruses that infect bacteria — are abundant in the bacteria that inhabit the female bladder. This is good news, because phage could be used as alternative treatment when antibiotics become resistant to pathogenic bacteria. The research is reported this week in the Journal of Bacteriology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Phage have been used as an alternative to antibiotics for decades in eastern European countries, particularly for treatment of urinary tract infections,” said corresponding author Catherine Putonti, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioinformatics, Loyola University, Chicago. “This first step in the characterization of the phages already present within the bladder has the potential to identify candidates for subsequent phage therapy clinical studies for urinary symptom treatment.”

The investigators examined 181 bacterial genomes taken from the female urinary microbiome, which Dr. Putonti said were representative of that microbiome’s phylogenetic diversity.

Full story at Science Daily

Deprescribing Medications for Older Adults

Many older adults take too many prescription drugs or take them at too-high doses. Prescriptions started long ago to treat temporary medical conditions somehow never get stopped. Other preventive drugs may offer little to no benefit after a certain age and bring unacceptable side effects for older users.

A movement is underway to eliminate excess medications that are more likely to harm than help older patients. Known as deprescribing, it comes down to thoughtfully evaluating and rightsizing individual drug regimens that build up for patients in the course of their lives.

Polypharmacy, or overmedication, is defined in a variety of ways. One commonly used threshold is a medication routine involving five or more different drugs. Patients may accumulate much higher drug totals, according to Cynthia Blevins, a certified registered nurse practitioner at Penn State Health General Internal Medicine of Lancaster. Blevins, a strong proponent of deprescribing, is also an adjunct professor with the nurse practitioner program at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

Full story at US News