the hourlong “Frontline” documentary “Life and Death in Assisted Living,” airing Tuesday night on PBS stations across the country, doesn’t really break new ground on the subject. But it is important nonetheless.One reason is that families, who make most of the decisions about assisted living, don’t pore over gerontology journals or state regulations as they are looking for a place that is not a nursing home.
So they don’t always realize that these reassuring-looking residences may have no nurse on the premises most of the time, that health care in assisted living frequently consists of a 911 call, that the average length of stay — according to the Assisted Living Federation of America — is less than two years.
TORONTO – Studies show that Canada’s elderly are at a much higher risk of suicide than adolescents, and there is growing concern among mental health experts that psychological care may be out of reach for most seniors.
Dr. Marnin Heisel, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Western Ontario, says lack of public awareness of the issue is a key problem that affects not only the elderly, but their families and the public in general.
Although this article reports on the problem in Canada, depression among older adults is by no means confined to that country.
As pointed out here, there is a need for public awareness about the issue of older adults and depression. Family and friends should be aware of what signs to look for and should not hesitate to discuss the issue with older friends and family members.
One interesting point here is the observation that suicide might sometimes pass for death by natural causes in this age group unless coroners, alerted by reports of depression, know to look specifically for signs of suicide on autopsy.
This article describes a patient who benefited from early diagnosis of a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease. But for most people, early diagnosis of dementia only provides knowledge of a problem for which there is no effective treatment.
the push for ever-earlier dementia screening raises troubling questions for patients and their families. When the diagnosis is early Alzheimer’s disease, the medical profession has little treatment to offer. This month, researchers at an Alzheimer’s Association conference in Boston urged policy makers to think hard before recommending wider dementia screening, saying studies have found no evidence that early detection improves outcomes.
And the experts said that little, if anything, is known about the potential risks of early detection. The diagnosis may cause stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide in patients, and can have implications for employment, purchasing life and long-term care insurance, and one’s overall quality of life, sense of autonomy and self-image.
While there are no easy answers, the article concludes with an encouragement for older adults and their family members who begin noticing signs of cognitive impairment to get a thorough medical examination:
The physician should take a history, do a thorough exam, and rule out a number of potential causes of mental impairment: depression; thyroid, kidney and liver function; vitamin B12 levels; infections; and dehydration and electrolyte disturbances. . . . The physician should also do a careful review of medications, since many drugs can have adverse effects on cognition. . . . Reassuringly, many people who experience mild cognitive impairment do not progress to dementia, and many even return to normal, some studies suggest. A study of primary care patients seen at Wishard Health Services identified 130 patients with mild cognitive impairment. A year later, most were stable, and nearly one-third had reverted to normal.
Studies presented Wednesday at an Alzheimer’s Association conference in Boston showed that people with some types of cognitive concerns were more likely to have Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains, and to develop dementia later. Research presented by Dr. Amariglio, for example, found that people with more concerns about memory and organizing ability were more likely to have amyloid, a key Alzheimer’s-related protein, in their brains.
And, in a significant shift highlighted at the conference, leading Alzheimer’s researchers are identifying a new category called “subjective cognitive decline,” which is people’s own sense that their memory and thinking skills are slipping even before others have noticed.
This article reports on a new interest in Alzheimer’s research, the subjective reports of aging patients, known as “the worried well,” who sense their cognitive abilities changing before standard testing procedures reveal definite signs of dementia:
leading Alzheimer’s researchers are identifying a new category called “subjective cognitive decline,” which is people’s own sense that their memory and thinking skills are slipping even before others have noticed.
However, it’s important to note that:
Some memory decline reflects normal aging, they say, and some concerns reflect psychological angst. People who forget what they wanted in the kitchen or the names of relatively unfamiliar people are probably aging normally. People who forget important details of recent events, get lost in familiar places or lose track of book or television plots may not be, especially if they have more problems than others their age.
Finally, a bit of good news:
A new study has found dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, a trend researchers say is likely occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies.Another recent study, in Denmark, found that people in their 90s who were given a standard test of mental ability in 2010 scored substantially better than people who reached their 90s a decade earlier.
Baby boomers, take note: For every year you put off retirement, your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia are cut by 3 percent.
The findings are the result of a massive French study, which looked at the records of 429,000 workers. The scientists presented their results Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston.
. . .
The findings underpin the often-repeated advice to prevent mental decline: “Use it or lose it.” Doctors have said that keeping the brain mentally challenged is one way to prevent dementia and related diseases.
Depression can be easy to overlook in older people for a number of reasons, as this article explains.
If you know someone who might be depressed, don’t let that person brush off your concern. Here are some ways you might be able to help.