Health is key to our ability to achieve successful aging.
Improving the health and quality of life for the world’s seniors is a pursuit of scientists across the globe.
One organization has been bringing advances in medical care and research to the attention of the medical profession for many years – The American Geriatrics Society.
They recently compiled a list of the most important medical advances, which have resulted in improved care for older adults, over the last fifteen years.
Let’s look at the most impactful breakthroughs for our senior loved ones.
Advancements That Improve Health for Seniors
Researchers are in search of not only cures for major diseases for the world’s population but also for prevention strategies we can all use to improve our health.
Caregivers also seek answers to improving the health and quality of life for their loved ones. It is not just a goal to live a long life but to live a healthy life that makes seniors happy being able to remain independent and active as they live out their years.
This is a compilation of the latest research that has given caregivers and seniors, as well as the medical community, practical ways to improve health in aging.
Montreal Cognitive Assessment
Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a screening test to detect mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The MoCA is a bedside measure that performs well in discriminating MCI from normal cognition as an initial test.
Because MCI is more common in older adults than dementia, the MoCA can determine the level of cognitive function without the need for more involved neurological testing. The MoCA is more sensitive than other screening tests.
Determining if there are medications that can be inappropriate and potentially harmful for seniors has been achieved using a comprehensive review examining drug-related outcomes affecting older adults, known as the Beers Criteria.
As medications change, so does the need to update the Beers Criteria, which was done recently to determine which drugs should be avoided altogether, are inappropriate for or to be avoided in certain diseases, or classes of drugs to be used with caution for older adults.
The Beers Criteria is the most widely used clinical tool for the medical care of seniors.
Transitional Care Model for Heart Failure to Prevent Hospital Readmissions
Many seniors face the diagnosis of heart failure and often have difficulty keeping the disease under control, resulting in multiple hospital admissions.
What health experts agree on is that proper daily care can prevent heart failure from becoming critical in our senior loved ones.
A model of care to help educate seniors and caregivers about how best to improve their health at home, as well as connecting with them to monitor their health and prevent conditions requiring hospitalizations, was created by Dr. Mary Naylor. It is now being used by healthcare systems across the country.
Cognitive Training for Seniors
Training seniors for improved cognition, or to delay cognitive impairments, can help improve every day function.
Cognitive training, which includes memory, speed of processing, and reasoning, as well as the speed in these processes was noted to continue to show a gain in those trained as many as 10 years later. The participants, who were an average age of 82, showed improvements in maintenance of cognition and self-reported activities of daily living.
This study led to increased means of providing cognitive training for elders and the commercialization of programs to improve functioning for seniors.
The risk of falling and especially succumbing to an injury from a fall which could devastate future independence for our seniors is becoming a great concern for caregivers.
In response to this growing crisis, the American Geriatrics Society, British Geriatrics Society and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has created a guide for clinicians to help prevent falls in our senior loved ones. This includes recommendations for assessing seniors who have fallen, evidence-based review of interventions, and research in the future.
Hospital Elder Life Program
Preventing delirium in hospitalized older adults which can impact aging in place has a new model of care called the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP).
The program aims to decrease the rate of cognitive and functional decline in seniors during the course of their hospital stay by preventing delirium. It incorporates sitters, fall prevention, decreased hospital length of stay, institutionalization and readmission need.
Sarcopenia in Aging
We know that, for many of our seniors as they age, protein intake declines with an overall decrease in the nutritional adequacy of their food consumption, resulting in muscle loss. This muscle loss is known as sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia is possibly reversible with appropriate interventions.
The prevalence of sarcopenia was studied, as well as the impact this has on the functional status and potential disability in older adults. They found sarcopenia led to two times greater functional impairment for men and three times greater for women.
Improving Health of Our Seniors
It is of vital importance for us all to work collaboratively to improve the health of our senior loved ones.
Learning as much as we can about the lifestyle factors and environmental causes of chronic diseases and functional or cognitive losses as they age will help us create interventions for prevention and treatment.
Without taking steps to improve their health, we will put more burden on caregivers. Our seniors will lose the ability to age in place due to the amount of care required to overcome many of the health issues our seniors face as they age.
Our goal should be to make it possible for all our senior loved ones to experience the highest quality of life and live their years in the home of their choice.
We can’t change the fact that our seniors will age or that their bodies will also change, but we can take strides through knowledge and commitment to prevention activities to help them age successfully.
Senior Care Corner will continue to keep abreast of the research that is ongoing to help overcome age-related diseases and disorders that affect our loved ones health outcomes and support caregivers who make every effort to help seniors age well!