Aging & Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Senior Life, Safety

Information, updates and interesting tidbits from across the country and around the world.

In this issue:

  • Dogs could provide clues to the health status of seniors.
  • Shingles shot reduces risk of painful complications.
  • One-third of seniors live with a disability.

Senior woman and her dog, wearing matching party hats.

How Is Mom? Her Canine Companion Knows!

Dogs have evolved right along with people for thousands of years, and are attuned to their human owners to an extraordinary degree. Perhaps you saw the fascinating "Dogs Decoded" episode of NOVA a few years back? Dogs also offer many therapeutic benefits for seniors. And researchers from Newcastle University in the UK say that dogs might even serve as a barometer to measure the health and safety of elderly owners. Today cameras and sensors are available to monitor the well-being of seniors at home, but many elders find these technologies intrusive. Dr. Cas Ladha and his team suggested that instead, dogs could be equipped with sensors that would raise red flags if their owner's condition had changed. Said Dr. Ladha, "The idea behind this research is that it would allow us to discreetly support people without the need for cameras." Team member Nils Hammerla added, "A dog's physical and emotional dependence on their owner means that their well-being likely reflects that of their owner, and any changes such as the dog being walked less often, perhaps not being fed regularly, or simply demonstrating 'unhappy' behavior could be an early indicator for families that an older relative needs help." Read more about the study here.  

Another Reason to Get Your Shingles Shot

Shingles is a painful condition that becomes more common as we grow older. In the best case scenario, the painful rash, fever and headache cause an unpleasant few weeks, after which the patient recovers without complications. But a certain number of people with shingles will be unlucky enough to develop post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN)—lasting, severe pain that in some cases can be quite debilitating. The good news is that there is a vaccine for shingles. It is a one-time shot that can lower the risk. It is recommended for everyone over the age of 60; Medicare and many insurances will pay for the immunization. Yet relatively few seniors have taken advantage of the shot. One reason the holdouts give is that they've heard some people who get the shot develop shingles anyway. While it's true that the vaccine doesn't prevent 100 percent of cases, a new study from Kaiser Permanente found that people who get shingles are less likely to suffer PHN if they've had the shot. If you are age 60 or older (some experts say age 50), talk to your doctor about the shingles vaccine. (And ask anyone you know who's had PHN—they will probably second the doctor's recommendation that you get vaccinated!)

Most Families in the U.S. Will Be Affected by Disabilities

Twenty-five years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. For a quarter-century, the Act has provided civil rights protection for people who live with physical or mental impairments, many of whom are older adults. Some people are of the opinion that they don't benefit personally from accessible parking spaces, braille elevator signs, curb cuts or laws that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Yet a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should serve as a reminder that most people will come to appreciate these laws and services sometime in the future—either for themselves or on behalf of a family member! The report    emphasizes the need for protection and support services for people who have specific functional disabilities, such as problems with mobility, cognition, vision, living independently and self-care. The numbers tell the story: Today, one in five people in the United States—53 million of us—have some form of disability. For people older than 65, the number jumps to one in three. See the infographic below to learn more.

Infographic on disabilities from the CDC

Infographic courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2015 IlluminAge.