News & Updates

The importance of oral health care as we age.

Aging puts us at risk for an increase in oral health problems such as darkened teeth, dry mouth, diminished sense of taste, root decay and gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss. Age alone may not be the sole factor in determining oral health. Conditions such as arthritis can make it difficult to brush and floss effectively and certain drugs may affect oral health as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), oral health is often overlooked in the aging population as they are often dealing with serious and debilitating conditions. However, oral problems such as those mentioned above can cause pain and discomfort which can lead to an inability to speak, chew and swallow. Poor self-esteem associated with tooth loss and periodontal disease can affect an individual’s general sense of well-being. A visit to the dentist at least annually can help prevent and treat oral health conditions as the dentist makes a comprehensive evaluation of the teeth, gums and mouth and can treat any issues before they become too severe. Caregivers should encourage their elderly charges to visit the dentist regularly to ensure continued oral health and prevent serious problems later on.

Staying in shape in winter weather

The benefits of exercise as we age are well known. Although most Americans reduce the amount of exercise they do in the winter, there really is no reason that seniors cannot continue to remain physically active just because it’s cold outside, says Evelyn O'Neill, manager of fitness at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center.

Even at home, gently circling the arms, doing toe raises and balancing on one leg at a time can help keep seniors in shape. Ambulatory individuals who live in an apartment building or senior home can walk the hallways. Effective exercise should cause a “moderate sense of effort” according to O’Neill and doing so for about 30 minutes each day can help maintain strength and balance (bidmc.org).

Winter home safety

As seniors prepare themselves for winter, they need to get their homes ready as well, says John Bougas, director of engineering at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. Seniors or their caregivers should ensure that their homes are insulated properly and that windows are caulked to prevent drafts. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should also be tested to ensure they are working properly. Thermostats should be set to 68 degrees to prevent hypothermia and to keep pipes from freezing. Bougas cautions against using electric space heaters, which the National Fire Protection Association says are the leading cause of home fires from December to February. A supply of flashlights and batteries should be kept on hand in case of power outages caused by winter storms. (bidmc.org) STUDY: DRUG-FREE

Methods to reduce delirium

Critically ill patients in hospitals are commonly subject to delirium – a sudden onset of confusion which can be very troubling for patients and their families. Typically, drugs are used to alleviate symptoms of delirium which can lead to increased falls, longer hospital stays and general physical decline. A new study, however, suggests that non-drug strategies may be effective in reducing delirium in elderly patients. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, reviewed several studies performed around the world and concluded that drug free methods including adequate nutrition, hydration, sleep and exercise, as well as simply telling patients where they were and the time and date on a daily basis seemed to reduce incidence of delirium and falls. Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, director of geriatric education at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, NY, said that interventions mentioned in the study are "already known to health care workers, but need to be further emphasized and recognized." She also added a few additional measures such as ensuring that patients have their glasses and hearing aids handy to ease vision and hearing difficulties while in the unfamiliar confines of the hospital. Dr. Wolf-Klein further recommends that family and other visitors spend as much time as possible with patients, talking to them, answering their questions and helping them stay focused. (nlm.nih.gov)

Spotting Malnutrition in Seniors

Although one in ten seniors over age 65 exhibits signs of malnutrition, research conducted on behalf of Abbott, a UK based healthcare company, reveals that only 12 percent of people could correctly identify the signs of malnourishment in their older relatives, compared to 48 percent who were able to correctly identify heart attack symptoms and 71 percent correctly identifying stroke symptoms. As reported on medicalnewstoday.com, Abbott encourages relatives of seniors to look out for the following signs of possible malnutrition as they gather over the holidays:

CLOTHING - weight loss can be a sign of malnutrition, so look at clothing. Are they loose, ill-fitting? This could be a sign your relative is not eating enough.

APPETITE - There may be a lot of food on your holiday table, but are older friends and relatives eating? Has their appetite shrunk? With weight loss, dentures can become loose and ill-fitting making it harder to eat, so watch out for this too.

RINGS - jewelry can often become ill-fitting with weight loss, so keep an eye on items such as wedding rings that people may have worn for years suddenly becoming loose.

ENERGY - with lack of food, reduced appetite and weight loss can also come a lack of energy. Does your relative seem more lethargic or struggle to keep up in a way they never used to?

"The consequences of malnutrition are serious and should not be overlooked," says Carole Glencorse, Medical Director, Abbott Nutrition UK. She adds: "Malnourished older adults are less able to fight off infection, wounds take longer to heal and people lose muscle, leading to inactivity and an increased risk of falls.” Relatives are urged to take action if they have reason to believe an elderly relative is experiencing malnourishment.

Frail Seniors May Benefit from High Dose Flu Shot

A HealthDay News article published on usnews.com suggests that a high-dose influenza vaccine is better than the standard vaccine for frail seniors residing in nursing homes. In a study published Dec. 18 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers reported that the high-dose shot produced a stronger immune response in this elderly population. "For frail older adults, the high-dose vaccine appears to be a better option to protect against flu than the standard dose," said study leader Dr. David Nace, of the University of Pittsburgh.

"Even in the frail, long-term care population, the high-dose flu vaccine looks like it produces a greater antibody response than the standard dose vaccine." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about nine out of every ten flu-related deaths in the United States are among people aged 65 and older. People aged 85 and older in long-term care communities are at high risk of developing flu, and their immune systems may be less responsive to vaccines, the researchers say.

In the new study, researchers compared the high-dose and standard vaccines in 187 frail older adults with an average age of 87. The high-dose vaccine prompted a modest but stronger improvement in the immune response to all but one flu strain at 30 and 180 days after vaccination, leading to the hope that use of the stronger vaccine will help keep the flu at bay for older residents of nursing homes.

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