Saturday, July 31, 2010

Technology Can Let You Age in Place

Mom or Dad doesn't want to move to assisted living or a nursing home. But you are worried about Mom falling or Dad forgetting to take his medication at the right time. What can you do with parents who want to live out their days at home? Technology to the rescue.

There are now a wide variety of high-tech gadgets and systems that help seniors remember to take their pills, warn family or emergency services that they have fallen, or even monitor daily habits. These are big advances over the older technologies you've seen advertised on TV. Large corporations, entrepreneurs and universities are busy developing new and better methods to meet the growing demand from older adults and their adult children. Among these are U.C.L.A. Wireless Health Institute and Philips.

This whole new concept in high tech support is really wonderful, if you can get over the idea that it's a little bit like "Big Brother". Still, according to two articles in the New York Times, seniors can get used to being monitored. And if the adult children frame the requests to use technology properly, they can demonstrate love and care, rather than a need to control.

Read more about the technology via these links:

http://www.wirelesshealth.ucla.edu/ 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/garden/29hometech.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/garden/29parents.html

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Really Causes Alzheimer's?

I'm puzzled. Just this spring I read that a researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine had discovered that amyloid plaques were probably not the cause of Alzheimer's. Therefore, removing plaques would not help patients. In fact, it might even hurt. Dr. Sam Gandy, who is the lead researcher, says it's floating clumps of protein that are destroying the neural pathways involved with learning and memory. He says science should be working on pursuing this new hypothesis -- the "abeta oligomer hypothesis" -- rather than the "amyloid beta" hypothesis that most drug research is focusing on.

 The articles I read online in AARP magazine and medicinenet.com were very compelling, explaining how Dr. Gandy used mice to make his discovery. The research even indicated that plaques might be the body's mechanism to protect the brain from the damaging floating protein. I thought I'd be reading more about this exciting, hopeful research. But no.

Instead, I've been reading about huge drug trials from big pharma intent on studying the removal of plaque. The New York Times had a front page article on July 17, 2010, on new ways to test for Alzheimer's, new drug studies and how the FDA is slowing the studies up. The FDA is saying that it's one thing for a medicine to make plaque disappear, but what they want is for the memory of the people taking the drug to improve (or at least not continue to deteriorate). Hooray for the FDA. This makes perfect sense. But why weren't the FDA and Times also talking about Dr. Gandy's research? Why aren't drug companies shifting over to test drugs that fight the abeta oligomer?

I'm baffled. If anyone out there reads this and can shed light on this, please let me know. Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. My mother had dementia from a stroke. I know first hand how devastating dementia can be.  
Here are links to the various articles I've cite here:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=115821


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/17/health/research/17drug.html


http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-05-2010/alzheimers_disease.html

Friday, July 09, 2010

Robert Butler Dies - Coined Term "Ageism"

The man who coined the term "ageism" died on July 4, 2010, at age 83. His name was Robert Butler, and he was a psychiatrist with a fascinating background and appreciation for the elderly. Dr. Butler believed that there was significant discrimination against older people, which he called ageism. He said it was wrong and that we needed to have greater appreciation for older people, particularly because people are living longer.

His activism led to an entirely new branch of medicine -- geriatrics. He taught that age does not necessarily lead to senility. He founded the National Institute on Aging in 1975, and in 1982 proposed that Mount Sinai School of Medicine start a department of gerontology. Butler believed in living life well. He respected how the elderly can have amazing strength and endurance and used that knowledge and feeling in his work.

Read the entire obituary and a conversation with him at the New York Times. 
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/07/health/research/07butler.html

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/07/a-last-conversation-with-dr-robert-butler/

Thursday, July 08, 2010

We Need More Geriatric Experts

In case you didn't know it already, the population of the United States is graying. Seventy-five million adults will be over 65 by 2030. Yet, we do not have nearly enough professionals working in the field of geriatrics.  The New York Times recently noted that "of 3.1 million registered nurses nationwide, 11,000 are certified in geriatrics." And relatively small portion of funding from the National Institute of Health is going toward geriatric health research.

If we're going to have successful caring for our aging population, we'll need more doctors and nurses who know a lot about the older brain and body. Lack of understanding has led to too many patients on Medicare to be readmitted to hospitals within 30 days after discharge. Falling, drug interactions, drug mistakes and other problems all contribute to preventable health care issues for the elderly. But nurses who are trained to follow up with patients can help by calling them.

Some hospitals have adopted a program called "Niche" (Nurses Improving Care for the Healthsystem Elders) to do just this and more. Read more at: http://www.princetonhcs.org/page5738.aspx

Universities and hospitals are taking action, but it's slow in coming. Become informed about this important health issue. Take some action. Make a difference. We are all aging...

Read more:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/health/29geri.html

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Joint Replacements - Outcomes Vary

The New York Times ran an article last week on knee and hip replacement surgery. The main point of the article was how important it is to get it right the first time. Find a surgeon who has lots of experience doing the replacement. Ask about the type of hip or knee you'll be getting. Find out how successful such joints are in the long run. Find out how many patients of a particular surgeon have to get the operation done over again with a new joint. You don't want to have your new joint fail and be forced to have surgery all over again.

According to the article, you can actually look up online registries that have information about doctors, hospitals and joints. Such registries about the success of certain brands or types of joints have a long track record overseas, so it pays to look internationally. (That's how other countries keep health care costs under control, in my opinion.) 

The article is loaded with other great advice about preparing for the surgery and recovering after it.  It also provides links to the registries.

Take a look: 

 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/health/03patient.html

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Crazies - Heart-Thumping Thriller

Here's a break from my blogs for seniors. It's a review of the movie "The Crazies."

My heart was thumping as I watched the action in The Crazies unfold. Although marketed as a horror movie, Breck Eisner’s remake of the 1973 George Romero film struck me as more of an intelligent thriller with some bloody scenes. What makes this movie particularly good is how it takes the point of view of the protagonists, a local sheriff David Dutton and his doctor wife, played by Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, as they are confronted by more and more of their friends and neighbors strangely changing into vengeful, unstoppable killers. They, along with the deputy and his girlfriend, slowly realize that they seem to be immune to the epidemic which is taking over the good people of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. At the same time, they find they are also cut off from communicating with the world beyond its borders.

Soon, they’re not just running from the local population, which is becoming steadily more crazy and murderous, but also from government troops who have moved in to quarantine the town and annihilate all the infected residents. It turns out that a military plane crash unleashed a bio weapon into the town’s water supply, and the government has to stop its spread and the knowledge of the catastrophe. The premise of a U.S.-made bio weapon getting loose, its devastating effects on the humans living there and the government’s heavy-handed response all seem plausible, when you think of recent environmental disasters.

I thought Eisner directed his characters and action well and developed high tension with some really cringe-inducing scenes and surprises. The acting was much better than a typical horror film. I particularly liked
how the film’s creators interspersed calm, personal sequences, like the sheriff waking up with his wife in their peaceful house, summer breezes blowing the curtains, with sudden scenes of violence. The scenes of
surprising or unrelenting attacks truly had me gasping and tensing up far more than I do in most movies. I had actually thought this kind of movie making was dead, but I’m glad to see it isn’t.

I also really liked how the production design (art direction) aided in creating the bucolic feel of the Iowa prairie, in contrast to the bloody mayhem and military response.  And I enjoyed the percussive score written by Mark Isham. Isham created music that sounded at times like the bells of a railroad crossing. I loved that because it evoked the image of fast-moving, unstoppable danger, and you’re stuck at the RR crossing, just watching.  He also wrote lovely melodies for the calmer, more personal parts of the film, again, helping to create more suspense and a sense of dread.

If you missed The Crazies when it was out in theaters, get the DVD now and treat yourself to a good, scary evening.