Innovation During the Coming Epidemic of Memory Impairment

MGH Russell Museum 3

The Museum of Medical History and Innovation in Boston

I just finished reading How to Defeat Alzheimer’s, a May 28, 2013 article in the Los Angeles Times. The article, by David Shubert, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, reminds readers of the vast number of boomers who will experience memory impairments (14 million in 2050) at the end of their lives, requiring extensive medical and caregiving support. No cure is in sight, not even that many hopeful signs for possible cure, and research is not keeping up. Dr. Shubert offers some “out-of-the-box” ideas to move along the study of dementia diseases.

As a member of the sandwich generation — I have a married adult daughter and aging parents — I am aware of the challenges that Alzheimer’s and dementia may present for my parents, for my generation, including me, and for young adults who will likely observe a fair number of their relatives passing through various stages of brain impairment. Yet, with so many people moving inexorably toward dementia illnesses, the situation also offers an opportunity for researchers to learn more than ever before and get answers to at least a few of the unanswered questions. The boomer generation may become a sentinel cohort that helps medical researchers find some answers to Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

Eurhythmics, Aging Elders, and Falls

eurthrymics

Link to video @ YouTube.

In light of my most recent post (April 23, 2013) about the effect of music during my parents’ Bible study sessions, I am reposting this blog post describing an article about music, eurhythmics, and elders.

How interesting to read about the research Effect of Music-Based Multitask Training on Gait, Balance, and Fall Risk in Elderly People (abstract), an article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The article is not freely available from the medical journal, so to read it you will need to speak with a librarian or go to a hospital library.

The article points out that most seniors’ falls occur when people are performing concurrent tasks and that “each year more than a third of the population 65 years and older experiences at least one fall.” The  Swiss medical researchers wondered whether participation in a music-based program involving concurrent tasks of movement and music might have a positive effect on the factors that can cause a fall — gait and balance — thereby reducing the frequency of falls.

The music activity they chose for their research is eurhythmics, a program of music education that combines music and movement, developed by composer Emile Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva in the early 20th century. Not surprisingly, at least not from my perspective as a college music major and life-long very amateur musician, people who participated in six months of Dalcroze eurhythmics reduced both the rate and the risk of falling by the end of the program compared to a control group that did not take the class but carried on with life as usual. When the control group subsequently took the class for six months, the researchers found the same results.

Continue reading

Are Boomers As Healthy As They Think?

Over and over the media refer to boomers as a health conscious generation, and boomers often assume that their generation is healthier than their parents’ generation.

Now new research, just published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, reaches conclusions that dispute the rosy boomer heath assumptions.

Click this image to watch a video about the NHANES survey.

Click this image to watch a video about the NHANES survey.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Health Examination  Survey (NHANES – Check out this informational video), researchers compared data from 1988-1994 for our parents’ generation and data from 2007-2010 for the boomers. This means that they were examining health data from similar age groups. The results are dramatic.

Some of the Findings

  • In the older generation, 32% the those surveyed reported excellent health, while only 13.2% of boomers reported excellent health.
  • Obesity was more common in the boomer generation.
  • Regular exercise was less frequent in boomers’ lives.
  • Hypertension was more common in boomers with 43% reporting the condition, but only 36% of their parents reported hypertension at the same age.         Continue reading

Research Says…

With some frequency adult children search for reliable medical information after hearing research reported on the news. Or perhaps an aging parent or spouse is ill, a physician recommends a new therapy or treatment, and a family wants to learn more as they consider the recommendation.

When any of us seek to learn more, it’s second nature to try to increase our understanding by consulting electronic articles and other resources — either summary articles in newspapers or original reports in medical journals — and asking the question, “How might this medical research help me?”

The problem is, sorting through research articles and reports often yields mixed results. One piece of research may report positive results and beneficial patient outcomes while another might report just the opposite with less desirable results — on the same topic. How does one decide what research to consider seriously?

Continue reading

Aging Parents and Hospital Admission for Observations

When your parents go to the hospital and need to stay over night or longer, be sure the medical staff admits them as official patients and not for observation (which means that technically they are not admitted at all).

People hospitalized for observation do not qualify for Medicare’s skilled nursing care benefit after leaving the hospital, and they will have much higher out-of-pocket costs because many Medicare benefits require formal admission as an inpatient to a hospital, not a stay for observation, which is more like outpatient status.

Much has been written recently about this situation. Brown University gerontologists published their findings in the June 2012 Health Affairs (abstract), explaining that the number of observations rose 34% when compared to standard hospital admissions in 2007-2009. The study analyzed a huge amount of data — the Medicare claims of 29 million individuals between 2007 and 2009.

A report on the study in the June 4, 2012 Kaiser Health News, Study: Hospital Observations Stays Increase 25 Percent in Three Years, points out how researchers also found that patients under observation stayed in the hospital longer than admitted patients — some “observed” for longer than three days.

Interesting Quote from the Kaiser Article                 Continue reading

Paul Allen Donates Another $300 Mil to Brain Research

New York Times, March 22, 2012
By Benedict Carey

Visit the Allen Institute website.

It’s a good day for brain research.

Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen is giving millions more to the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which according to a New York Times article, opened as a center for brain  research in 2003.Reporter Benedict Carey notes that, “The institute will focus on counting and classifying the different types of neurons, illuminating the molecular machinery within the cells that can cause problems, and studying how the cells process information in networks, using as a model the visual system in mice.”

This contribution brings Allen’s total for the Seattle-based research organization to $500 million dollars. According to an Allen Institute’s press release that announces the new donation:
(Paul) Allen has charged the Institute with tackling some of the most fundamental and complex questions in brain science today. The answers to these questions are essential for achieving a complete understanding of how the brain works, what goes wrong in brain-related diseases and disorders, and how best to treat them. Continue reading