Research Shows Older Adults have a Secondary Internal Clock

Changes in Sleep with Age

Everyone is familiar with the natural sleep cycle of sleeping at night and being awake during the day, but humans actually have several different natural sleep cycles that come into play during different stages of life. This is especially true for older adults whose internal clocks change with time.

Humans have genes that keep our bodies on a 24-hour cycle. With your eyes closed deep in a cave for several days, your body will be aware of days passing on this cycle and will continue wake/sleep cycles, at least for the first while. These 24-hour genes help wake us up in the morning and put us to sleep at night, cortisol in the morning and melatonin at night. However, for older adults, it seems that these genes do not work in quite the same way.

We have been joking about early bird dinners and grandparents’ naps for so long that researchers took a look at the subject to deduce a scientific explanation for the reason for the disruption of these natural cycles. Researchers looked at the brain tissue from 150 people of all ages, taken immediately after their death. The samples showed which genes were expressed in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is behind the forehead and is responsible for memory and cognition, at the moment the person died. These different samples indicated that older people have less rhythmicity in many core clock genes, but why is still a mystery.

This study revealed something else that surprised the researchers. It appears that in older brains, genes were evident that showed another, secondary rhythm that was not present in the younger brains. Scientists are speculating that this may be a “backup clock” when the genes on the original start to fail. After all, an internal clock is nothing to dismiss. An off-kilter clock can disrupt digestion, alter behavioral patterns, and harm sleep and memory.

Researchers are studying what makes our internal clocks tick and what ages over time, both to weaken our internal clocks and to strengthen the secondary clock that is not available to younger people. Scientists and doctors hope that findings from these studies can shed light on why age increases risk for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as these disease have rhythmic qualities that doctors have been able to identify.

It is important for older adults to stick to a regulated awake-sleep time to maintain strong internal processes and remain healthy.

Long-term care by the numbers

Long Term Care Facilities

Long Term Nursing Care

Long-term care can be confusing and expensive for many people, with little opportunity for perspective. Below is long-term care by the numbers to help you better understand the state of nursing home and rehabilitative care in the U.S. for the elderly population.

8 million elderly U.S. citizens experience difficulty taking care of themselves on a day-to-day basis.

Another 13 million American adults have trouble performing independent activities association with living on their own.

44 percent of men in the U.S. will require long-term care in their lifetimes.

58 percent of women in America will have need long-term care in their lifetimes.

8.5 percent of adults in the U.S. aged 65 years and older reported spending at least one night in a nursing home in the last two years (2010).

Nursing home stays increased by 40 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Home healthcare visits increased by 50 percent during the same time period.

There is a 22 percent probability that a man will need more than one year in a nursing home in his life.

For women, the probability is 36 percent that they will require more than one year in a nursing home in their lifetimes.

2 percent of elderly men require a nursing home stay of at least five years.

Women have a probability of 7 percent of needing a nursing home stay of at least five years.

The average duration of a nursing home stay for a man is 0.88 years.

For women, the average nursing home stay lasts about 1.44 years.

14 percent of Americans 71-years-old and older have dementia.

The rate of dementia among adults 65-years-old is expected to increase by 40 percent from 2015 to 2025.

64 percent of nursing home residents in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia.

13.2 percent of Americans who received professional home healthcare in 2010 had long-term care insurance coverage.

Approximately 22 percent of long-term care costs come out-of-pocket.

Medicaid covers 51 percent of long-term care costs.

28 percent of Medicaid funding paid for long-term care costs in 2013.

8 percent of long-term care delivered in America is covered by long-term care insurance.

13 percent of elderly Americans that are covered by long-term insurance.

$7.8 billion in long-term care claims were paid out in 2014.

There are about 43.5 million adult family caregivers that look after someone over 50-years-old.

14.9 million of these adult caregivers provide care for a person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

This totals to about $450 billion in unpaid care provided by these caregivers (2009 estimate).

The average caregiver is a female (66 percent) and 48-years-old.

 

Physical activity invaluable for everyone (especially elderly)

Physical activity for elderly

Physical Activity and Elderly

A common belief among elderly people is that they are too old for certain things, or that it is too late. Older people often say that they are too old to learn something new, or too sick to be physically active. However, that is rarely the case, especially when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Health is something we must remain vigilant about, as there are many things people of all ages can do to help themselves, especially after facing health issues.

We often report new findings that support the importance of having physical rehabilitation after having surgery or experiencing a different health episode. Physical therapy and rehabilitation directly impact health outcomes after hospital discharge, but this is also an important lesson for just about everyone.

Exercise can benefit anyone and the same goes for older adults. It is unlikely that you will be making free throws on the basketball court, but even mild physical activity is still important. Being fit directly relates to a person’s ability to age in their homes and remain independent for longer. This is the secret to feeling like you’re 65 when you’re 85, but it’s important to start early.

It’s true that Americans are living longer than ever. In the next decade, more than 89 million people will be 65-years-old or older. This is going to be more than double the number of older people in the U.S. in 2011. Fitness can also lead to a longer life, but it’s really more about quality than quantity. It is important to be healthy in order to be able to enjoy these additional years.

Regular exercise and stretching can reduce risk of falls and broken bones, and it helps people bounce back from medical issues. Older people that have suffered triple bypasses and cancer have found salvation in physical therapy after a health episode, and many continue their commitment to being physically active from there. After all, it does improve your well being mentally, emotionally, as well as physically.

So what qualifies as low intensity exercise? Brisk walking or jogging, for those that are able to jog, and dancing are great aerobic exercises that are generally safe for seniors. Yoga will help keep you limber and flexible and there are many yoga classes designed especially for older people their unique needs. Balance exercise like tai chi can help you prevent falls and remain mentally alert for longer periods.

Tips on getting ready for autumn for the elderly

Elder Care Assistance

Helping Elderly Prepare for Fall Temperatures

Fall has come early in the Midwest and it’s a reminder that this summer has been all too short. This means that it’s time to start preparing for autumn, and that goes double for elderly people living alone or in other home arrangements.

The beginning of autumn brings a spike in season-related falls and illnesses as the changing weather sets in. When the temperature drops, we tend to stay indoors more, but still spend a lot of time outdoors during the early months. This requires twice the preparation, which can be difficult for elderly people that live on their own and have to maintain property.

Still, fall can be a really fun and beautiful time of year for everyone, the key is to take these steps to get ready.

Seasonal vaccines

Cold and flu season starts in the fall and with temperatures already dipping and people staying indoors, seasonal illnesses start early too so get your seasonal flu vaccine. Wash your hands carefully with hot, soapy water for at least 30 seconds to control the spread of germs. Youshould also get plenty of sleep, like the rest of the year, to keep your immune system strong and you healthy.

Home care

Elderly people that live alone should hire a specialist to check on their heating systems. Regardless of the living situation, now is a good time to pick up a space heater or two in case you feel chilly in an otherwise warm place. Make sure you never leave them unattended and leave at least three feet between it and a wall or curtains. Whether an elderly person lives on their own or in an assisted living community, it can take more time to get these types of errands accomplished so it’s a good idea to get started early in the season.

Outdoor precautions

Summer has the reputation of being the season of yard work and outdoor activities, but autumn is still warm enough to enjoy time outside. The season can pose some obstacles in that rains create slick surfaces and falling leaves can contribute to unsafe conditions. There can be a lot of work involved with maintaining a safe outdoor space and walkways during autumn, so it’s best to hire a landscaping service to rake leaves and perform last trims before the winter. This way you can help prevent debris on your walkways and steps, but it’s important to still be careful when outside.

3 Primary Concerns of the Elderly

Concerns of the Elderly

People of all ages have concerns and worries and these things change and develop over time as we age. All concerns, as different as they may be, stem from desires and hopes. Growing older does not mean entering a carefree time, they just change from the time we are teenagers or parents to young children.

As the child of an elderly parent or a primary caregiver, it is invaluable for you to understand the primary concerns that your parents face, as you are likely a primary caregiver or decider in the care of your loved one. You should know these concerns so you can help ease those worries and help provide peace of mind, and help your loved ones overcome these emotional obstacles. It may also be time to reach out to professionals for assistance with care.

Primary concerns of the elderly:

1. Money

People seemingly worry about money throughout their lives, and the senior years are no different. No one wants to outlive their savings, which is increasingly becoming true. Life expectancy is one the rise and it is wonderful that we are now living longer than ever before. However, this means that our savings have to cover those extra years even while healthcare costs continue to rise. The twilight years require extensive financial planning and changes can cause a lot of worry.

2. Usefulness

It is difficult to see your role in your family and in society shift. Most elderly people have led long, productive lives in which they felt useful. However, once the kids grow up and have kids of their own, elderly people can lose a sense of purpose. To counteract this concern, keep your elderly loved one close and express their value in your life. If possible, let them watch children or help in the kitchen, or engage in another reaffirming activity.

3. Being a burden

In addition to worrying that they are not actively contributing, seniors are concerned with becoming a burden on their loved ones. Growing old means that we become a lot weaker or ill so we can no longer take care of ourselves the way we once did, or do the things we used to. It is often up to the family to pick up the slack and carry the extra weight. Reassure your loved one that they are not a burden and, if necessary, find a suitable solution so that a professional can administer proper care.

Obama administration poised to usher in new nursing home regulations

Elder Care Nursing Home

US Government’s Renewed Commitment to Elder Care

Many news stories that have been in the media lately have focused on what appears to be the United States’ government’s renewed commitment to elder care. Organizations are calling for improved nursing home administered to Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, and the Obama administration is hearing them loud and clear.

There are approximately 1.5 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the U.S. that are receiving treatment across 15,000 long-term care facilities and nursing homes across the country. The new care proposal is a whopping 403 pages and it aims to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) unnecessary hospital readmissions and infections while improving quality of care and safety. Barack Obama announced a new set of rules and regulations at the White House Conference on Aging.

A document of this size surely has a lot of information and supporting data, but the highlights are already pleasing nursing home residents and others who have held off moving to a long-term care facility due to fear. Regulatory changes include ensuring that staff members are properly trained in dementia care and preventing elder abuse, improved care planning (including discharge planning) that involves an interdisciplinary team, and a thorough follow up including instructions to new facilities (in cases of a transfer).

This new proposal touches on another factor that is often overlooked. There are more controls put in place now to ensure that nursing home and long-term care residents are not unnecessarily prescribed antipsychotic medications. The over prescription of unnecessary antipsychotic medications can lead to death and other serious health and mental problems.

The new rules were proposed by CMS, the leading payer for long-term care in the U.S. Overall, nearly 64 percent of nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid, 14 percent are covered by Medicare, and the remaining 22 percent are covered by another payer. The new proposal would likely cost the nursing home industry around $729 million in the first year of its implementation, and $638 million in the second year.

Although senior advocacy groups and residents alike are thrilled with the possibility of widespread reform, some are not as excited. For one, these measures do little to address the chronic problem of nursing home staffing – particularly the understaffing and overworking of employees that leads to burnout symptoms like exhaustion and apathy.

Notes on these new rules are not due until mid-September so it appears that this is going to be a long process, like most things in government. For now, it is up to every nursing home and long-term care facility provider to hold themselves accountable for the quality of care they offer and raise the bar.