Depression in the elderly is not unusual, and can be brought on by any number of factors, ranging from physical issues or cognitive issues to life events. Spouses, adult children, and friends can take steps to help. These steps include:
...Accepting this current failure to produce a drug that is of real help to people with the disease has been a struggle for researchers at large. There are still many questions about exactly what triggers Alzheimer’s disease and whether or not there is just one cause or if there are several. Researchers will continue to try to solve the puzzle. Most likely they will eventually develop a method that can reliably prevent or cure Alzheimer’s through pharmaceutical intervention. Meanwhile, as is often the case, acceptance of this current failure has led to studies that seem to have produced some hope on a more basic level.
...There are countless products on the market right now to help improve gut health and immune function, but do any of these actually work? Which options are best for a senior’s unique issues? I contacted Woodson Merrell, MD, ScD (hc), to get some answers on how to maintain gut health as we age.
While Alzheimer’s specific drugs may help slow symptoms for some people, they also may increase the risk of hip fractures, fainting, urinary problems and other health issues. Most researchers now think that a time comes when many medications for the elderly are no longer beneficial and may be harmful. According to an article in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester looked at 5,406 nursing home residents who had late-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia with more than half of them being older than 85. The scientists found that 2,911 of the patients – nearly 54 percent - were taking at least one medication of questionable benefit.
Dear Carol: My father, who is 83, refuses to shower or bathe. Mom can’t budge him. He used to be very clean. He was also interested in fixing things around the house and he loved yard work and playing poker with friends. Over the last months he’s completely changed. All he wants to do is sleep in front of the TV. He won’t even put on fresh clothes in the morning unless Mom snatches his dirty clothes and puts them in the wash before he goes to bed. Mom says he’s also careless about taking his blood pressure medications. His memory seems normal for his age, which is to say that he does forget things occasionally but no more than Mom or others of his age. We dance around the Alzheimer’s word, probably because we’re scared that this is what is wrong. What do you think? VK
Flu isn't just an inconvenience, especially among the elderly population. For expert information on how caregivers can help their elders stay healthy and if possible avoid the flu, I reached out to Martie Moore, R.N., MAOM, CPHQ, who is Chief Nursing Officer, Medline Industries, Inc. for some answers.
Dear Carol: I grew up with my grandparents because my parents were killed in a car accident and they both loved me a lot. My grandmother died seven years ago when I was 23. I’d been on my own for a few years, but I moved back in with grandpa after he had a stroke. Things have gone fairly well with me working part time jobs and spending a lot of time with him. Lately, though, his memory has gotten very bad and he’s become stubborn about taking his medication, which he was always good about before. He’s also having more trouble getting around. I’ve finally started a good job with prospects for a future, but I can’t leave grandpa alone for long. My friends, as well as grandpa’s friends, tell me that he needs to go to a nursing home. They think it’s better for both of us but I feel like I should stay and take care of him like he took care of me. If I stay, I can’t take the full time job which I really want. I’m so confused. What do you think I should do? TK
There are a number of clinical issues involved in treating seniors with new and lifelong mental illnesses. A loved one may develop one of these conditions as they age, or they may have received a diagnosis long ago and remained stable on the same psychiatric medication for decades. In the latter case, however, their treatment plan may need to be adjusted as their body processes these drugs differently, new conditions develop and other medications are added to the mix.
It’s far too easy for onlookers to view someone with dementia as unable to feel pain. Since the disease eventually renders most people helpless and cognitively inexpressive, they can't articulate what hurts or why they are upset. Caring researchers have now brought new insight to this issue. In an article on altered pain processing in patients with cognitive impairment, Medical News Today states that new research shows how wrong previous ideas about what people with cognitive disorders could feel have been.
Dear Carol: My dad has been in a nursing home for several years and, for the most part, we’re happy with the care. A problem occurred lately, though, where I’d like your thoughts. Dad has been on a medication for mental illness for years. We’re aware that this medication has side effects but we also know how miserable he is without it. Anyway, the dosage of this medication was lowered and we weren’t told. I found out about the change because of Dad’s behavior. I asked the floor nurse and she told me that an order had come through to lower the dosage. I then checked with the doctor who said he hadn’t lowered the dosage but that there was an order on Dad’s records for the change. In the end, we got the medication reinstated at the proper dose and Dad is improving. The staff knows that I have the medical Power Of Attorney for Dad's health. Am I wrong about thinking that I should have been told? KB