Cold & Flu Prevention for Older Adults

By Diane Walker  RN, MS, CSA

Getting a cold or — even worse — the flu is a miserable inconvenience for anyone. For an older adult, the outcome can be worse than a Flu picturefew missed days at work or the inability to enjoy one’s activities, it can be much more serious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “…90% of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older.” Older immune systems tend to be weaker which allows the flu to turn into more serious conditions such as bronchitis and / or pneumonia.

While an illness can hit anyone at any time, there are ways to prevent developing a cold or the flu. The best way to treat a cold or flu is to not get it in the first place. Prevention is key. Seniors and their caretakers should keep the following tips in mind to keep an older adult healthy: Continue reading

Austin Mayor’s Task Force on Aging

Dear Friends,

For the past year, I have had the great honor to serve on the Austin Mayor’s Task Force on Aging. I am very proud to have been part of this effort.

The recommendations from the Task Force include the following focus areas:

  1. Healthy Living
  2. Independence
  3. Informed Community

We are especially thrilled that under the focus area of ‘independence’, the Task Force specifically highlights the need for critical support and training for family caregivers. One of their recommendations is to expand CaregiverU, a collaboration that AGE is honored to coordinate with the generous support of the St. David’s Foundation. Continue reading

How many of us get enough sleep?

Did you know that during sleep our brains consolidate and store our memory and learning? Sleep also helps us function more efficiently and effectively. Sleep helps us stay healthy and prevent additional health problems.

An adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. How often do you meet that?

Sometimes we deprive ourselves of sleep by the lifestyle we have (or choose to have). Work, poor sleep habits, and other factors contribute to volitional sleep deprivation. This shows that many of us don’t take sleep as seriously as we should. But other things beyond your control also affect how we sleep: environmental disruptions and untreated sleep disorders fall into this category.

Being tired can interfere with your daily activities, such as being sleepy at work- which can causes errors or injuries. It also affects your driving. We may not like to admit it, but how many people have felt drowsy while driving? Or even more dangerous, dozed off while at the wheel? It’s more common than you may think.

Sleep Apnea is one serious sleep disorder, and it is when airflow stops during sleep. This causes frequent awakenings so the person can adjust and open their airway. In severe Apnea, some people stop breathing over 30 times each hour during their sleep. That does not sound very restful! If you think you might have an issue similar to this, you should contact your doctor, or look up the Central Texas Neurology Consultants of St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, who provided this information.

Those with Alzheimer’s disease (or those who care for them) know that as the disease progresses, sleep patterns often change. They might experience confusion between night and day, causing them to sleep long periods at off hours. Often, it can causes restlessness or sleeplessness, which can lead to wandering. And, of course, for caregivers all of this can prevent or interfere from being able to get any real rest of their own.

There are a couple of things that caregivers can do to alleviate sleep issues:

  • Check with your physician about medications that might be causing sleeplessness.
  • Avoid caffeine or stimulants.
  • Encourage your loved one to be active during the day, even exercise, but be wary of too much activity close to bed time.
  • If they struggle sleeping at night, minimize daytime naps especially later in the day.
  • And try exposing them to sunlight in the morning and earlier in the day.
  • And of course, maintain consistency when possible in rising for the day and going to bed at night.

Moral of the story: take care of yourself, get enough sleep. The consequences can echo through every aspect of your life. And if you think you or your loved one need medical help with getting real, restful sleep, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. And if there are other things in your life (such as issues with aging or getting older, or caregiver challenges) that are interfering with your ability to rest and take care of yourself, please contact AGE of Central Texas and let us figure out how to help you find what you need.

Parlez-vous français? ¿Habla usted español?: You might be delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

The New York Times recently highlighted the advantages of being bilingual. Besides making travel and ordering international food easier, being bilingual may help wire the brain to retain cognitive functions and executive functions longer than those who speak only one language.

According to cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok, bilingualism may forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In her research:

“We did two kinds of studies. In the first, published in 2004, we found that normally aging bilinguals had better cognitive functioning than normally aging monolinguals. Bilingual older adults performed better than monolingual older adults on executive control tasks. That was very impressive because it didn’t have to be that way. It could have turned out that everybody just lost function equally as they got older.

That evidence made us look at people who didn’t have normal cognitive function. In our next studies , we looked at the medical records of 400 Alzheimer’s patients. On average, the bilinguals showed Alzheimer’s symptoms five or six years later than those who spoke only one language. This didn’t mean that the bilinguals didn’t have Alzheimer’s. It meant that as the disease took root in their brains, they were able to continue functioning at a higher level. They could cope with the disease for longer.”

Read the full article here at The New York Times website.

Read more research here:
Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia

Delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease
Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve

Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence From the Simon Task

Living with Alzheimer’s Disease

YNN Austin recently highlighted Alzheimer’s Disease in their Healthy Living segment. Check out the video to learn more about recent research. -SP

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease where nerves in the brain die. Recent studies have identified new genes that may contribute to the late onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Some new developments have come out in Alzheimer’s research. Find out more in this edition of “Healthy Living.” Watch the video to check it out.

Guest Blogger Joni Sellers, RN: Fall Prevention Tips for Home Safety Month

Check out this great article from our friend Joni at Care Improvement Plus! -AGE Blog Staff

logo By: Joni Sellers MSN, MHA, RN, CDE, Care Improvement Plus


Each year, home-related fall injuries result in an average of 21 million medical visits and 20,000 deaths.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, falls are the number one cause of injury death. Additionally, the CDC cites falls as a common cause of injuries and hospital admissions for trauma among seniors.

Stiff muscles and joints make seniors more susceptible to injuries in the home as reaction time slows with age. Certain medications can also affect balance and vision in older adults. Fortunately, there are many preventive measures seniors and their loved ones can take to help protect from dangerous falls in the home. Take for instance, the following tips from the CDC and

  • Check Your Rugs: While rugs provide an extra layer of decoration to the home, they also increase chances of slipping.  Place a nonskid pad underneath area rugs and remove all throw rugs as they pose a risk of tripping.
  • Clear Paths: Be sure keep rooms free of clutter and clear walking paths along the stairs and between furniture.  Check that all wires are tucked away to eliminate any risk of tripping.
  • Bathroom Safety: Install grab bars in the tub or shower. Place a nonskid rubber mat in the tub or shower and a bathmat with nonskid backing on the bathroom floor.
  • Lighting: Place nightlights along the path between bedroom and bathroom and keep a flashlight in each room.
  • Exercise Regularly: Balance exercises help build strength in leg muscles, which will help improve balance and prevent falls. Tai Chi, a slow-motion Chinese martial art, is one of the leading ways specialists suggest seniors improve their balance.
  • Medication reviews: Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to reduce side effects and interactions that may cause dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Annual tests for your eyes and bones: Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update your eyeglasses to maximize vision. In addition, get tested annually for osteoporosis and make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet to help promote bone health.

According to the Home Safety Committee, every hour two seniors die from fall-related injuries, with another 205 treated in emergency rooms. Forty percent of those who fall lose their ability to remain independent, suffer from reduced mobility and increase their risk of premature death. By following these simple steps, seniors can significantly reduce their risk of falling, allowing them to maintain their independence in their homes.

Care Improvement Plus provides specialized Medicare coverage for underserved and chronically ill beneficiaries throughout the state. To learn more, call 1-866-727-6646 or visit

Learn more about Care Improvement Plus here!

Can Doctors Help Prevent Financial Abuse?

In the Examination Room, an Effort to Prevent Financial Abuse
Can doctors and other medical professionals be trained to spot elderly patients who are at risk of being ripped off?

A consortium of regulators, educators and advocates is hoping the answer is “yes, with a little help from us.” On Wednesday, the group announced a program aimed at training thousands of medical professionals to screen older patients for financial vulnerability, watch for signs that they are being exploited and refer them to appropriate sources of help.

The initiative’s sponsors say that mild mental impairment, a problem that affects more than a third of all people over 71, can lead the elderly into debt or destitution before anyone realizes they are fumbling their personal finances. Indeed, research shows that fogginess about money matters can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The new program aims to develop continuing medical education classes that will train health care professionals to quickly recognize the signs of financial confusion before a patient has fallen victim to fraud or incurred ruinous debts.

The effort is a collaboration among the North American Securities Administrators Association, made up of state securities regulators; the Investor Protection Trust and the Investor Protection Institute, nonprofit organizations focusing on investor education; and the National Adult Protective Services Association, which supports the efforts of social workers who deal with abuse cases among elderly and young adults.

But it has the support of a handful of important national medical associations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Geriatrics Society. According to Robert E. Roush, faculty associate at the Huffington Center on Aging at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, a pilot project in Texas produced a solid increase in the number of doctors who used training information to refer patients for more extensive testing of their financial acuity.

Read more here at The New Old Age blog.

Study: Can Vitamin B12 Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk?

Finnish study hints at a link, but experts call the trial small and preliminary
By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) — People who eat a diet rich in vitamin B12 may be protecting themselves from Alzheimer’s disease, a small, preliminary study suggests.

The findings add to the debate about whether vitamins can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While this new study appears to support the role of vitamins, other studies have yielded mixed results, the researchers said.

“Previous studies have reported that vitamin B12 deficiency is a common condition in the elderly,” said lead researcher Dr. Babak Hooshmand, a research assistant with the Aging Research Center at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Our results indicate that vitamin B12 and related metabolites may have a role in Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed before we can get conclusions on the role of vitamin B12 supplements on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease,” he added.

The report is published in the Oct. 19 issue of Neurology.

Read the full article at the Business Week website here.

NEWS: A Sense of Purpose In Life Reduces The Risk of Alzheimer’s Dementia

As Seen on The Huffington Post
By Scott Mendelson, M.D.
Author of Beyond Alzheimer’s

The United States is currently experiencing the early stages of what is expected to be an epidemic of Alzheimer’s Dementia. It is predicted that the current number of cases of Alzheimer’s Dementia will double by 2020, and double again by 2040. Some unfortunate individuals are born with genes that strongly predispose them to developing Alzheimer’s Dementia. However, this is true for only a minority of people. The familial, early onset form of Alzheimer’s Dementia, which is so strongly linked to genetic abnormalities, is responsible for about five percent of cases of this illness. There is compelling evidence that the rest of us can escape, or at least postpone or diminish the severity of Alzheimer’s, by improving our diets, maintaining our health and generally living healthier lifestyles. In most cases, it appears Alzheimer’s Dementia can be avoided.

An under-appreciated but scientifically substantiated fact is that getting a good education, challenging your mind, maintaining friendships and staying socially active can also help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Dementia in later life. A new report in the American Medical Association journal, Archives of General Psychiatry, now compliments those findings in showing that simply having a sense of purpose in life can help to reduce this risk.

This new study was performed by Patricia Boyle, Ph.D and her group at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The participants in the study were 951 men and women with an average age of 80.4 years, who had normal cognitive function at the start of the study. That is, none had yet shown signs of developing Alzheimer’s Dementia. In the study they defined purpose in life as, “The psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior.” In other words, that your life means something and that you have a sense of control of it. They measured the sense of purpose in life by tallying up scores from a 10 item questionnaire that was given to the subjects in the test.

The questionnaire included questions such as: “I have a sense of direction and purpose in life”, and ” I sometimes feel as if I have done all there is to do in life.” Participants answered questions on a scale of one to five, and agreement with optimistic, positive questions such as the first, added points while disagreement with the more pessimistic questions, such as the second one, also added points. They found that individuals with a sense of purpose at the start of the study were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Dementia over the following seven years. In fact, it was shown that people with the lowest sense of purpose in life were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Dementia than those with the highest sense of purpose. The authors of the study recognized that factors such as depression, education, number of friends and family, gender, and race can and do affect ones risk for developing Alzheimer’s Dementia. These factors were measured and analyzed in the study. They determined that even when all of these other important social and psychological factors were considered, a simple sense of purpose in life made its own unique, and statistically significant contribution to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s Dementia.

Healthy diet, good sleep and exercise are often seen as the “natural way” to keep the mind healthy and avoid dementia. This is rightfully so. It is certainly the case that diabetes, heart disease, obesity, sleep apnea, and vitamin deficiencies are risk factors for Alzheimer’s that can be prevented or treated. However, we often neglect the fact that having healthy attitudes and emotions, stimulating our minds with education and challenging work, and maintaining social interactions with other people are also important in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.

Research has shown that people that have long histories of Major Depression are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Dementia than those that do not. Reduction of stress further decreases the likelihood of dementia. Indeed, studies have shown that people who describe themselves as calm, relaxed, and self-satisfied can reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by one half. The East Boston study showed that every year of education after high school reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 17 percent. A study at Duke University showed that having intellectually challenging work in adult life can reduce the risk of dementia even further beyond what a good education alone can do. In the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study it was found that maintaining friendships in later life significantly improves the likelihood of avoiding dementia. Another interesting study found that people already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia who have large social networks of family and friends can maintain better cognitive function, even with higher levels of amyloid plaque damage in their brains, than can those without such social support. Scientific studies have also shown that people with deeply held religious beliefs and dedication to religious practices, regardless of the type, have a slower rate of cognitive decline when Alzheimer’s dementia is already diagnosed. The current study now adds to this list of things we can do and ways we can approach life that can reduce our risk of dementia. Having a sense of purpose in life can reduce this risk.

Along with a looming epidemic of Alzheimer’s Dementia, our country is also facing a crisis in access to health care and controlling the ever increasing costs of this care. In the United States in 2005, the annual Medicare payments for the care of patients with dementia were over $91 billion. These are expected to increase to over $160 billion in this year of 2010. It is time that we return to simple, inexpensive, but effective measures to reduce the numbers of people who develop Alzheimer’s, as well as to reduce the enormous financial burden on our country and families. Thus, the most important part of the finding that a sense of purpose can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s may be one that was not mentioned by the authors of the study. What they might have mentioned is the fact that a strong sense of purpose in life is absolutely free.

Study shows cigarette smoking a risk for Alzheimer’s disease

A UCSF analysis of published studies on the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and smoking indicates that smoking cigarettes is a significant risk factor for the disease. After controlling for study design, quality of the journals, time of publication, and tobacco industry affiliation of the authors, the UCSF research team also found an association between tobacco industry affiliation and the conclusions of individual studies. Industry-affiliated studies indicated that smoking protects against the development of AD, while independent studies showed that smoking increased the risk of developing the disease.

Read more at the University of California, San Francisco website.