Growing old in America can be wrought with legal problems arising from health concerns, long-term care, and the need for appropriate housing.
The good news is that there are tools and products and strategies that older Americans can use to live as well as possible in the last decades of their lives.
So, what are some of the more common problems older Americans face, and how might they solve or at least alleviate them?
Who will make decisions for you when you are no longer able to make them yourself? According to Bernard Krooks, a partner with Littman Krooks and chair of that firm’s elder law and special needs department, the best way to address this problem is by searching for and retaining a certified elder law attorney who can draft the appropriate documents that you’ll need, including durable power of attorney, advance health care directives and the like.
Lynn Black’s mother-in-law, who had lupus and lung cancer, was rushed into a hospital intensive care unit last summer with shortness of breath. As she lay in bed, intubated and unresponsive, a parade of doctors told the family “all good news.”
A cardiologist reported the patient’s heart was fine. An oncologist announced that the substance infiltrating her lungs was not cancer. An infectious-disease doctor assured the family, “We’ve got her on the right antibiotic.”
With each doctor’s report, Black recalled, most of her family “felt this tremendous sense of relief.”
But Black, a doctor herself, knew the physicians were avoiding the truth: “She’s 100 percent dying.”
Research into curious bright spots in the eyes on stroke patients’ brain images could one day alter the way these individuals are assessed and treated. A team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health found that a chemical routinely given to stroke patients undergoing brain scans can leak into their eyes, highlighting those areas and potentially providing insight into their strokes. The study was published in Neurology.
“We were kind of astounded by this — it’s a very unrecognized phenomenon,” said Richard Leigh, M.D., an assistant clinical investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the paper’s senior author. “It raises the question of whether there is something we can observe in the eye that would help clinicians evaluate the severity of a stroke and guide us on how best to help patients.”
Not being employed linked with greater likelihood of death than history of diabetes or stroke.
Unemployment is associated with a 50% higher risk of death in patients with heart failure, according to research presented today at Heart Failure 2017 and the 4th World Congress on Acute Heart Failure. The observational study in more than 20,000 heart failure patients found that not being employed was linked with a greater likelihood of death than history of diabetes or stroke.
“The ability to hold a job brings valuable information on wellbeing and performance status,” said lead author Dr Rasmus Roerth, a physician at Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark. “And workforce exclusion has been associated with increased risk of depression, mental health problems and even suicide.”
A growing elder care shortage could be eased by worker-owned cooperatives, a little-used business model that also improves the working conditions and the quality of life for caregivers. That’s the conclusion reached by University of Georgia faculty member Rebecca Matthew and Vanessa Bransburg, a cooperative development specialist, in a recent, award-winning case study.
Matthew, an assistant professor at the UGA School of Social Work, and Bransburg, a staff member at Democracy at Work Institute in San Diego, California, looked for a successful system of home-based caring labor that puts equal emphasis on the well-being of both the care recipient and the provider. They examined the most popular forms of paid child care — for-profit and nonprofit services — alongside worker-owned child care cooperatives. The latter system is popular in other parts of the world, but represents a fraction of the caregiving services available in the U.S.
The cooperatives, which give employees greater control over their working conditions and a share in profits, improved the quality of life of both care recipients and providers.
A higher neighborhood advantage, or socioeconomic status, of where a person lives contributes to a lower risk of having a stroke no matter the person’s race, according to findings published in the Oct. 14 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The report from the University of Alabama at Birmingham REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke study shows this effect is the same for black and white adults, both men and women.
“More blacks than whites in the United States have strokes and die from strokes,” said Virginia Howard, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor in the UAB School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology. “More people who live in the Southeastern area known as the stroke belt have stroke and die from stroke compared to those who live in the rest of the United States.”
Anemia, a lack of red blood cells, may be linked to a higher risk of death in older adults who have had a stroke, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
Anemia is common in patients with acute stroke. Both anemia and low hemoglobin levels, which are proteins in red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, are also common in older people, said Phyo Myint, M.D., senior study author and Professor of Medicine of Old Age at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
Researchers examined data from 8,013 hospital patients, average age 77, admitted with acute stroke between 2003 and 2015. Researchers assessed the impact of anemia and hemoglobin levels on death at different time points up to one year following stroke.
Working or volunteering can reduce the chances of chronic health conditions leading to physical disability in older Americans, according to researchers at Georgia State University and Florida State University.
The study found people ages 50 to 64 who worked full-time or part-time or volunteered up to 100 hours per year experienced a reduction in the extent to which chronic conditions were associated with subsequent functional limitations, such as the ability to walk a block or climb a flight of stairs. The findings are published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.
Previous studies have not examined how working or volunteering affects functional limitations, said Ben Lennox Kail, lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State.
Electroacupuncture combined with nighttime splinting may help alleviate pain from chronic carpal tunnel syndrome, according to a randomized controlled trial published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
“We found that treatment using electroacupuncture provided small improvements in symptoms, disability, function, dexterity and pinch strength among patients with chronic mild to moderate symptoms of primary carpal tunnel syndrome when combined with nocturnal splinting,” writes Dr. Vincent Chung, Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care and the Hong Kong Institute of Integrative Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, with coauthors.
Carpal tunnel syndrome affects about 3% of the general population and can limit daily activities in people, causing substantial work-related issues and resulting in disability claims. Night splinting and local steroid injection are two commonly recommended treatments for mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome.
Neurological disorders can impair sexuality on a much more massive scale than frequently assumed, leaving loss of desire, erection problems and infertility in their wake. Both men and women are affected. A person’s self-esteem, love life and relationship with a significant other can all suffer. But as Prof David B. Vodušek from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, pointed out at the Second Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) in Copenhagen, people do not have to simply acquiesce to this situation: “There are ways of helping affected individuals, provided neurologists actively address possible problems with the patient’s intimate private life. Many patients have the impression that this aspect is given too little attention,” the Chairman of the EAN Liaison Committee noted.Neurological problems affect a person’s love life
Prof Vodušek explained: “Erectile dysfunction in men and orgasm dysfunction in women are the most frequent sexual consequences of neurological deficits.” Hypothalamo-pituitary disorders reduce sexual desire in men whereas in women the complaints are usually amenorrhea and infertility, a lack of sexual desire, a decrease in vaginal lubrication, and orgasm dysfunction. Particularly lesions of the frontal and temporal lobes seem to lead to sexual dysfunction in patients with serious neurological disorders, for instance after a stroke. Epileptic patients have complex sexual problems, which can include hypersexuality but mostly decreased sexual arousability. Male patients with Parkinson’s often report erectile dysfunction and problems with orgasm and ejaculation. Women and men both complain of very weak sexual desire as a result of Parkinson’s disease — notwithstanding the detrimental effect that their limited mobility has on passion. Multiple sclerosis can result in similar sexual dysfunctions as with Parkinson’s as well as in genital sensory dysfunction. In male diabetic patients erectile dysfunction is common, and retrograde ejaculation may occur (seminal discharge in the bladder). Women with polyneuropathy may have greater difficulty with sexual arousal and vaginal lubrication.