Many people believe that creativity peaks when we are young, diminishing as we grow older. But this
stereotype is a myth. In fact, research shows that creativity can be maintained and even increased as we age. Many lifelong artists have reached their most productive and innovative phase in their 60s and beyond.
The arts are entertaining and culturally important. But is creativity important for health? It seems that it is! Study after study shows that lifelong participation in graphic arts, music, dance, creative writing and other art forms all set the stage for better health in our later years. For example, researchers recently found that people who played an instrument when they were young enjoy a brain health advantage in their senior years.
But what if you didn’t spend much time on artistic pursuits when you were a child? What if you were too busy during your working years to pick up a paintbrush or join a musical combo? The good news is, it’s never too late to tap into the power of art! Just as we can begin an exercise program after age 65 even if we’ve always been couch potatoes, we can also put on an artist’s smock or take up an instrument at any age, no matter what our health status and abilities. The benefits of art are many—physical, emotional, intellectual, psychosocial and intergenerational. According a study authored by the late Dr. Gene Cohen, who was a pioneer in the study of aging and creativity, seniors who participated in an arts program reported a higher overall rating of physical health, fewer doctor visits, less medication use, a reduction in falls, and fewer other health problems. The National Academy of Sciences is currently doing more research on “the relationship of art-making and creativity to physical health and psychological well-being of older adults.”
This should not surprise us when we realize that expressing ourselves is a vital human need. Sharing our history, our view of the world, our hopes and dreams and fears … though words, through music, through images, through motion … promotes the sense of well-being that is a major measure of successful aging. Consider this small sampling of recent studies on the benefits to be found in these types of creative pursuits:
Music. A University of California San Francisco neuroscientist is using community senior choirs to help participants improve balance and strength, and reduce depressive symptoms, loneliness and memory loss. Music therapists from MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland use music to help hospital patients reduce pain and build strength. And intriguing research from Northwestern University suggests that musical training might help reduce age-related hearing loss.
Drama. Professors Helga and Tony Noice of Elmhurst College in Illinois are using acting and drama to provide increased brain stimulation for older adults. They have found that acting engages performers on many levels—physical, emotional and intellectual.
Dance. University of Montreal professor Dr. Chantal Dumoulin used a dance program to help women reduce incontinence. Dance has also been used in an effective fall prevention program, according to University of Missouri’s Jean Krampe. And the Parkinson Foundation offers dance programs to reduce movement challenges.
Creative writing. The TimeSlips program encourages the use of imaginative language to improve the quality of life of people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
Visual arts. Learning a new hands-on skill can protect the brain. University of Texas at Dallas researchers listed digital photography and quilting as examples of activities seniors might choose to improve cognitive function. And art museums across the country offer special programs for people with memory loss. According to Dr. Luis Fornazzari of St. Michael’s Hospital Memory Clinic in Toronto, artistic abilities may be retained in the mind even when other abilities are lost. He described the work of an internationally known sculptor who was able to create works of art even though she was unable to draw the correct time on a clock or remember the names of things. “Art opens the mind,” says Fornazzari.
Opportunities to Explore Your Creative Side
DIY—do-it-yourself—isn’t only for young people. You can create your own an art program, if that is what you prefer. Explore a local art store and bring home a selection of paints and paper. Dust off your piano and try some new music, or buy a simple instrument. Write a memoir. Put on some music and dance.
But this is just a start. Art opportunities abound in the community, and creating art with others adds the benefits of socialization. Check out classes offered by your local senior center, senior services department, parks and recreation, community colleges and university extension programs. Art galleries and other cultural institutions often offer participation programs.
Take an old favorite to a new level. Do you sew from patterns? Create your own designs! Do you do needlepoint from a kit? Try painting your own canvas. Use your woodworking tools to make decorative items for holiday gifts. “Yarn bomb” a tree in your yard—and be prepared to explain your project to curious passersby. Or increase the benefits of gardening by taking a flower arranging class.
What art activities are best for you? Don’t be afraid to try something new! Neurologists tell us that novelty is good for the brain. Try a creative activity you’ve never tried before—maybe even something you don’t know much about. If you never took up a musical instrument, discover the joys of creating sound. If you’ve never participated in group singing, your local choir may offer eye-opening pleasures. Never stepped on a stage? In a drama group, you may discover that you love to ham it up.
Many adapted activities are available for people with physical or cognitive limitations. More than ever before, creative arts therapists offer technologies old and new to enable people with mobility, sensory or cognitive challenges participate in arts of every type. Your local senior center may offer ideas; check with organizations and foundations that serve people with your own particular health challenge to find innovative adaptive art ideas and to learn about local programs.
Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014
This puzzle contains ideas for artistic opportunities that offer physical, intellectual, emotional and social benefits. Click here to download the puzzle, and give your brain a workout by finding all 20 words.
Need a little help? Click here for the solution to the puzzle.
Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014
Each year, seniors on Medicare have a seven-week period during which they can switch their Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) and their Medicare Advantage plan. The 2014 Medicare Open Enrollment dates are October 15 – December 7. Many people are tempted to just stick with the status quo. Yes, that might be easier—but it could also cost you money and make it harder to access the care and medications you need. It’s worth taking some time to review your current plans, and compare them to the other plans available in your area.
Here is a planning calendar from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:
During September and October:
Review. Your current plan may have changed; review any notices from your plan about changes for the upcoming year.
Compare: Beginning in October, use Medicare’s tools to see if your plan is still the best choice for your needs.
October 15—Open Enrollment Begins
This is the time of year when all people with Medicare can make changes to their health and prescription drug plans for the following year. October 15 is the first day that you can change your coverage. If you are then satisfied that your current plan will meet your needs for the next year, you don’t need to do anything.
December 7—Open Enrollment Ends.
The plan has to receive your enrollment request (application) byDecember 7.
January 1—Coverage Begins.
Your new coverage begins on January 1 if you switched to a new plan. If you stayed with your old plan, any changes to coverage, benefits and cost will begin on the first day of the year.
January 1 – February 14
If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare between January 1 – February 14. If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you’ll have until February 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.
Where to Get Help
As you are making your decision, here are places to learn more:
- Visit the Medicare website including the Plan Finder or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and say “Agent.” TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends. Let the customer service representative know if you need help in a language other than English or Spanish.
- The 2015 “Medicare & You” handbook should arrive in the mail around October 15. It will include a listing of plans in your area, and much more information. You also will be able to see the booklet online. (If you go to the site before that date, you will see the 2014 booklet, which may contain information that is out of date.)
- Review any information you’ve received from your current plan, including the “Annual Notice of Changes” letter.
- Get free, personalized health insurance information by calling your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). You can find the number for your state’s SHIP in the Medicare & You handbook, or call 1-800-MEDICARE. Find out if your local SHIP offers workshops or other presentations to help seniors choose the best plans.
- To see if you qualify for Medicare’s “Extra Help” program that helps pay for medications for seniors with a limited income, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security website’s “Extra Help” information page.
Source: AgeWise and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Medications help millions of seniors control health conditions that threaten their lives and their quality of life. But managing medications can be a challenge. It’s important to take them as recommended, and to be alert for side effects. Doctors report that in some cases, seniors stop taking their medications. Sometimes the warnings on prescription drugs can be frightening! Or seniors might wonder if they are experiencing side effects. Money or transportation challenges sometimes keep them from getting recommended refills.
A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine sheds light on another surprising reason older adults might discontinue a medication: When a refilled prescription looks different than before, patients may be confused and stop taking the drug. Yet it’s not uncommon for a pill to look different, according to the American College of Physicians. Says study author Dr. Aaron Kesselheim of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “The FDA does not require consistent pill appearance among interchangeable generic drugs, and the shape and color of patients’ pills may vary based on the particular supply at the patient’s pharmacy.”
Dr. Kesselheim and his team studied the records of 11,000 heart patients to see if they had taken their medications as directed. They found patients whose medications had changed in color were 34 percent more likely to stop taking the drug—and a change in shape raised the odds by 66 percent!
Dr. Kesselheim concluded, “Medications are essential to the treatment of cardiovascular disease and our study found that pill appearance plays an important role in ensuring patients are taking the generic medications that they need.”
He urges physicians and pharmacists to be aware of changes in a patient’s particular medication, and to reassure patients that the particular generic they receive may look different from a previous refill.
If you or an older loved one are concerned about the change of appearance of a drug you take, check with your doctor or pharmacist right away rather than discontinuing the drug or skipping even a single dose.
Source: AgeWise reporting on study from the Annals of Internal Medicine; news releases from the American College of Physicians; Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Each year, leading experts on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders meet at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, which is the world’s largest gathering of leading researchers, who present the latest information on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of memory and cognitive disorders.
This information is of interest to anyone concerned about brain health, including older adults and families of people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease. This year, several new studies shed light on risk reduction strategies:
Mentally Stimulating Activities Promote Brain Health
A number of previous studies have suggested that puzzles, games and other activities that make our brains work a little harder could also protect our memory and thinking. Researchers from the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center presented the results of a study that adds to this understanding.
The scientists studied a group of people at higher risk of Alzheimer’s due to a family history of the disease and/or the APOe4 gene, which is associated with higher risk. They found that the people who often played games, read books or went to museums had greater brain volume in several important regions. According to researcher Stephanie Schultz, “Our findings suggest that for some individuals, engagement in cognitively stimulating activities, especially involving games such as puzzles and cards, might be a useful approach for preserving brain structures and cognitive functions that are vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.”
Moderate Exercise and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
The Alzheimer’s Association says that of all the lifestyle choices we can make, exercise is the best-documented way to promote brain health. At the conference, Mayo Clinic researchers reported the results of a study that specifically looked at the relationship between mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and exercise. Mild cognitive impairment is a condition that causes slight changes in memory and thinking. It may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s.
The research team, led by Dr. Yonas Geda, reported that physical exercise in midlife and later life was associated with a reduced risk of MCI. They also found that in people who already have MCI, those with a history of moderate exercising during the ages of 50 – 65 had a “significantly decreased” risk of progressing to dementia. Dr. Geda said, “In our studies, we found that physical exercise at various levels, especially in mid-life, is beneficial for cognitive function. These are intriguing results, but they are not yet conclusive. More research is needed to determine the extent and nature of physical activity in protecting against MCI and dementia.”
Brain-Healthy Lifestyle Choices Work Together
There are some risk factors that we can’t do anything about—but certain brain-healthy lifestyle choices are under our control. A team of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland noted that individual studies have looked at the protective effect of individual modifiable risk factors, such as diet, exercise, socialization, social activities and management of heart disease. The team decided to look at the collective effect of all those factors. They studied a group of people age 60 to 77, and reported that those who were encouraged to follow a full set of brain-healthy lifestyle choices performed better on cognitive tests two years later. At the Conference, study author Dr. Miia Kivipelto said, “This is the first randomized control trial showing that it is possible to prevent cognitive decline using a multi-domain intervention among older at-risk individuals.” Kivipelto also noted that the study participants found the experience positive, and only 11 percent dropped out of the study during the two-year period.
These studies are yet another reminder about how important it is to take care of our own health! No matter what your age, take advantage of support resources in your community that can help you get the exercise, mental stimulation, regular healthcare, healthy eating and other activities that lower your own risk.
Source: AgeWise reporting on news releases from the Alzheimer’s Association. Read more about the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference here.
Did you get your flu shot yet? If you are older than 65, it’s especially important to be vaccinated. By doing so, you’ll make it less likely that you will spend a miserable week or so with congestion, fever and body aches—and, you might also be protecting your heart!
Seniors are at higher risk of serious complications from seasonal influenza. These include pneumonia and other infections that can lead to disability and even death. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms an especially dangerous complication: the flu raises the risk of heart failure and hospitalization for heart attack.
A research team headed Dr. Jacob Udell of the University of Toronto followed the health of 3,238 patients who received the flu vaccine, and 3,231 who were not immunized. They found that those who were vaccinated were 33 percent less likely to have an adverse cardiovascular event—and the protection was even stronger strong in patients who already were suffering from heart disease.
Dr. Udell calls for more research on the connection between flu vaccine and heart disease, calling the flu shot a “low-cost, annual, safe, easily administered and well-tolerated therapy to reduce cardiovascular risk.”
In an editorial accompanying Dr. Udell’s report, Dr. Kathleen M. Neuzil of PATH, Seattle, calls for policies to increase vaccination. She suggests that the vaccine be offered in more locations—not just at drugstores or the doctor’s office. She also strongly suggests that physicians recommend the flu vaccination for patients. She says, “While few are in a position to develop new influenza vaccines, all health care practitioners can recommend influenza vaccine to their patients. Doing so will help achieve the goal of 100 percent vaccination.”
Click here to watch a brief video about Dr. Udell and his study.
Visit www.Flu.gov to find information about flu and older adults and the recommendations for flu season 2014-15.
Source: AgeWise reporting on news release from the Journal of the American Medical Association
[Greenwich] – September is National Preparedness Month. Because natural disasters like hurricanes can occur at any time, the Greenwich Department of Health is reminding all residents to be prepared. “With today’s changing weather patterns, it is as important to be prepared for emergencies of all kinds. Certainly Hurricane Sandy taught us this valuable lesson. While government does its part in preparing for disasters, individual action and responsibility is needed. By making preparations in advance, you will have what you need and will feel more confident. Part of being prepared is deciding on whether you should ride out the storm. In some cases, it would be safer to relocate,” stated Caroline Calderone Baisley, Director of Health.
The Department of Health advises residents to make an Emergency Supply Kit and to keep emergency contact phone numbers listed below handy. Also residents are encouraged to visit websites including the Town’s website, The American Red Cross, and the federal government for pointers on personal readiness and listen to local news radio stations (WGCH 1490 AM or WLNK 1350 AM) for up to date information. During an emergency the Town may opt to use its emergency notification system to send a recorded message to each resident that has a published number. All residents are encouraged to register a contact number (non-published number, cell phone, etc.) through the Town’s website located under the First Selectman’s Emergency Preparedness page.
- TO REPORT ONLY EMERGENCIES – For all Police, Fire and EMS emergencies, dial 911.
- GREENWICH EMERGENCY INFORMATION: (866) 245-4260
(This number is in service ONLY during major emergencies)
Emergency Helplines – Utilities:
Aquarion Water Company 1-800-732-9678
Northeast Utilities 1-800-286-2000
CT Natural Gas Company (203) 869-6913
Local Non-Emergency Phone Numbers:
Town of Greenwich – www.greenwichct.org (203) 622-7700
Greenwich Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health (203)-987-1001/622-7838
Greenwich Fire Department non-emergency (203)-622-3950
Greenwich Police Department non-emergency (203)-622-8000
Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Service
– American Medical Response (AMR) 1-800-379-7700/(203)-332-4080
Department of Parks and Recreation Tree Division (203)-622-7814
Greenwich Chapter, American Red Cross (203)-869-8444
Greenwich Department of Social Services (203) 622-3800
Connecticut Poison Control 1-800-222-1222
The following information has been assembled for the general public:
- Flashlights and battery-powered radios
- First Aid Items: bandages, blankets, First Aid handbook and all special medicines
- A supply of non-perishable goods that require no cooking or refrigeration and a can opener
- A minimum of one-gallon of water per person a day
- Materials such as wire, rope, chlorine disinfectant, fire extinguishers, extra blankets, lumber and sandbags
Storm conditions can bring high winds, torrential rain, flooding and power outages when storm warnings are in effect, stay tuned to local radio stations WGCH 1490 AM and WLNK 1350AM or Cablevision Channel 12 for official bulletins. Keep a battery-powered radio handy, stay indoors, travel only if necessary. Motor vehicles should be kept off the street so emergency response crews can access the area to clear trees, service wires and respond to medical emergencies.
Power outages can pose health hazards. Community shelters (Eastern Middle School and Western Bendheim Civic Center) will be opened if available and needed.
During power outages:
- Unplug your appliances
- Generators should be used with caution. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and NEVER operate a generator indoors. Also, do not operate a generator inside the garage with or without the door being opened. DO NOT supply generator power to your home’s main line as you may injure a utility employee. Be aware of pooled water at all times.
- Conserve fuel and water. A few large containers can be filled with warm water for an emergency supply.
- Observe health and safety precautions when issued especially during times of fallen trees and power lines.
- Do not use charcoal grills indoors (includes garage) or gas stoves as a source of heat. Either one can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- When using candles, do so with extreme caution.
- Fireplaces may be used as long as they are properly vented
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. When anticipating a power failure, set refrigerator and freezer temperatures to a colder setting to build up a cooling reserve. With the door closed, fully stacked freezers will keep for two days, while half full freezers will keep food for one day. Dry ice can be used safely in freezers; however, gloves must be worn in handling and proceed as recommended.
- All thawed food may be cooked if maintained below 45o, otherwise it should be discarded. It is not recommended to refreeze any food once it has thawed. Any questions about food spoilage can be directed to the Division of Environmental Services at (203)-987-1001 or (203) 622-7838.
- Refrigerated food, especially perishable items such as eggs, milk, fish, meat and poultry, should be maintained at 45o, or below. Foods should be cooked or discarded after three hours of not being maintained at proper temperatures. All stuffed meats and poultry should be discarded. Any doubt concerning food items, discard or contact the Division of Environmental Health at the number(s) above, to discuss certain situations.
During a storm, flood waters may enter your home or flood your property.
- If your home or workplace is flooding, turn off the furnace and the gas valve at the appliance. Do not handle energized electrical equipment in wet areas. If meter goes under water, shut off the gas valves and all appliances. Be sure to have the electrical system thoroughly checked and repaired before use. Additional information can be obtained by calling Connecticut Natural Gas at 203‑869‑6900.
- Never try to cross a flooded area on foot. The water may be deep, unsanitary, fast running and power lines could be down and unseen.
- If you are in a car, avoid driving through floodwaters. Fast water could sweep your car away. However, if you are caught in fast rising waters and your vehicle stalls, leave the car.
- Private wells that have been flooded must be disinfected and sampled before use. It is important to wait until flood waters have receded to the point where waste disposal and septic systems can operate normally. A well drilling company can arrange this service – drink bottled water in the meantime. Well disinfection procedures are available by contacting the Department of Health’s Division of Environmental Services at (203)-987-1001 or (203) 622-7838.
- Wait until flood waters are below basement level before trying to drain or pump the basement.
- Never allow children to play in flood waters. Flood waters are considered contaminated. Clean all toys and equipment with a disinfectant or discard them.
- All clothing, curtains, bedding, etc. should be washed with hot, soapy water, than bleached if possible. Furniture and floors may be rinsed with clean water after washing with soap and water; disinfect if possible. (See other printed material entitled- Cleaning and Repairing Flooded Basements, Recommendations for Equipment, Furniture and Appliance Cleaning.
- Do not handle electrical equipment in wet areas
- Wear protective clothing while cleaning up debris
- All food items exposed to flood waters should be discarded. Cans and conventional jars free of rust or dents must be washed and sanitized before they are opened. If you are in doubt, throw it out. Call (203)-987-1001 or (203) 622-7838.with further questions.
- Cooperate with local officials at all times during an emergency.
- Fallen trees can cause a major problem. Trees on private property will be the responsibility of the homeowner. When a Town tree falls onto private property the Town will be responsible for the removal of all wood and brush. All calls will be handled on a first come bases unless it is an emergency situation. Patience is requested since all roads and critical municipality infrastructures must be cleaned and cleared first for safety.
- When any tree falls on a power line and causes it to come down or block a Town road or right-of way, the situation should be reported immediately.
For a copy of the Department of Health’s brochure, Hurricanes – Be Prepared, go on the Town’s website at www.greenwchct.org and look under the Department of Health. Brochures are also available at Town Hall.
Summer is almost over and it’s time for your children again to go back to school to learn new lessons, interact with old teachers and classmates, as well as meet new ones, and get involved in extracurricular activities. In order for you to be ready and get adjusted for the forthcoming back to school fad, here are some tips that may help you and your child all set for the first month of classes:
1) Be practical in buying school supplies. You don’t need expensive school supplies for your child. Buy only what your kids really need. But, you should also be careful in buying. Take note of its quality and hazard contents too, make sure those are safe for your children. You might also wait until the first day of school when the supplies list is given to your children to be more efficient. Beuerman-King said that “sometimes waiting helps you be a bit more economical”.
2) Get your child vaccinated. Consider getting a flu vaccine for your children because this is the common sickness that pupils encounter, not just for your children but for you and your partner as well. Flu vaccine is the most recommended vaccine by U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some schools require pupils to be vaccinated before they can enroll. You may visit your child’s health care provider to know other recommended vaccines. Sometimes, sickness really can’t be avoided. You can make a Sick-Day Game Plan for you to be prepared if that day comes.
3) Be health conscious. To help your kids prevent sickness and bringing germs at home, educate them properly by teaching them proper hygiene like washing of hands before eating and after using the restroom. With so much people around the school, the place is more prone to harmful microbes. Also, instruct them not to share foods and drinks right away to others. In addition, to promote the growth and development of your child, choose healthy food and drinks for them as their meals during school time. This is also one way that your family will avoid sickness.
4) Re-establish school routines and practice independence. It is recommended to do this practice two weeks before the classes to make your child more equipped to go to school. You can promote early bed time at home and early wake up call. Nurturing independence to your child is also possible here. Once the classroom door shuts, your child will need to manage a lot of things on his own. Get him ready for independence by talking ahead of time about responsibilities he’s old enough to shoulder. This might include organizing his school materials, writing down assignments, and bringing home homework, says Nicole Pfleger, school counselor at Nickajack Elementary School in Smyrna, GA. And, it is also important to get everyone on schedule so that everything will be organized and avoid stress, like setting up time and place for home works.
5) Attend ‘Parents and Teachers Assocation’ Meetings. Orientations before classes are typically conducted in order for you to be familiarized with the culture and rules of the school. These are good chances also to meet other people who share same sentiments with you. This will help you interact with other parents. And in here, you can meet the key players too, which are your child’s teachers, school counselors and principal. This is a good chance to develop healthy relationships with your child teachers, where you can raise and ask some concerns regarding your child’s performance, progress and for the campus’ activities.
The risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, is significantly greater for people with poor cardiovascular health than people with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according to a recent study appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Cardiovascular health plays a critical role in brain health, with several cardiovascular risk factors also playing a role in higher risk for cognitive decline.
Researchers found that people with the lowest cardiovascular health scores were more likely have impairment on learning, memory and verbal fluency tests than their counterparts with intermediate or better risk profiles.
The study involved 17,761 people aged 45 and older at the outset who had normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Mental function was evaluated four years later.
Researchers used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study to determine cardiovascular health status based on The American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7™ score. The REGARDS study population is 55 percent women, 42 percent blacks, 58 percent whites and 56 percent are residents of the “stroke belt” states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The Life’s Simple 7™ initiative is a new system to measure the benefits of modifiable health behaviors and risk factors in cardiovascular health, such as smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose. It classifies each of the seven factors of heart health as either poor, intermediate or ideal.
After accounting for differences in age, sex, race and education, researchers identified cognitive impairment in:
- 4.6 percent of people with the worst cardiovascular health scores;
- 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and
- 2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.
“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University Department of Health Science, in Provo, Utah.
“This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”
The differences were seen regardless of race, gender, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, or geographic region, although higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and among people without any cardiovascular disease.
Cognitive function assessments involved tests to measure verbal learning, memory and fluency. Verbal learning was determined using a three-trial, ten-item word list, while verbal memory was assessed by free recall of the ten-item list after a brief delay filled with non-cognitive questions. Verbal fluency was determined by asking each participant to name as many animals as possible in 60 seconds.
Although mechanisms that might explain the findings remain unclear, Thacker said that undetected subclinical strokes could not be ruled out.
Source: The American Heart Association. Visit www.heart.org to find heart health information for consumers and professionals.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that the percentage of seniors who are living in a nursing home has dropped by 20 percent in the last decade—yet there are more seniors than ever, and the number is growing. Are seniors just healthier these days? The truth is, older adults need as much care as ever, but more of them are receiving it in assisted living communities, adult day centers—and for a growing number, in their own homes.
Most seniors would prefer to receive care in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own home. Yet many have trouble with the activities of daily living and managing their healthcare, and that includes their medications. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the number of older adults hospitalized due to medication-related problems has doubled over the last decade, and the number is rising as the baby boomers age. For many seniors, the ability to manage their medications may be the deciding factor when they and their families are making the decision between home and an institutional care setting.
Medicines play an important part in senior health. They are beneficial in controlling many of the diseases and conditions that older adults experience, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease.
But medications, whether prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter, have potentially toxic side effects that can cause significant problems. For example, it is not at all uncommon for families to suspect dementia or depression in an older adult, when the symptoms are actually caused by undesirable effects from prescription drugs. Medication problems can lead to hospitalization and even death.
Undesirable effects of medications may be caused by:
- Negative side effects of a drug
- Interaction between one or more drugs
- Overdose from taking too much of a single medication
- Overmedication when two drugs work in a similar way
- Changes in the way an older person’s body reacts to and processes certain drugs that allow a toxic level to build up.
Overmedication isn’t the only problem: if a senior misses doses, the drug may not be as effective.
Often, medication management problems result from the complexity of juggling a variety of drugs for various conditions. Compound the issue with multiple prescriptions, different times to take them, different ways they should be taken, and it’s easy to see why medication compliance is so complicated.Seniors living with memory problems are even more likely to take an extra dose or skip a dose.
Families worry about their older loved one’s ability to take prescriptions correctly. There are some relatively simple safeguards to take. Family can:
- Help their loved one make a list of all medications and bring the list (or the medication containers) to their loved one’s doctor for a periodic review of all prescriptions.
- Check their loved one’s medicine chest for old prescriptions that are no longer needed or have expired.
- Help their loved one contact the healthcare provider if there are signs of bad side effects, such as a rash, headaches, drowsiness, dizziness or nausea.
- Encourage their loved one to use a single pharmacy for all prescriptions so the pharmacist can help avoid drug interactions.
But when it comes to the daily monitoring of a medication regimen, families may feel helpless, wondering whether their parent is following the doctor’s recommendations. They worry when they aren’t around, and wonder if the senior is safe taking the medications properly. This is where home care can fill in the gap, providing an extra measure of safety and peace of mind.
Skilled nursing services can be provided in the home, including medication administration. Less costly personal care and companion services may also include certain medication support tasks, depending on state law. Caregivers can:
- Remind senior clients to take medications on time and in the way they are supposed to be taken
- Take clients to the pharmacy, or pick up prescriptions
- Observe and report problems that might suggest side effects
- Help senior clients learn to use pill organizers, dispensers, automatic reminders or other devices.
Medication management is just one of the many ways that home care workers can help seniors maintain their independence, and help family caregivers go about their daily tasks with confidence, knowing their loved one is safe.
Copyright © AgeWise, 2014