Aging & Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Mental and Emotional Health, Medications, Senior Life

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

In this issue:

  • Are seniors really grouchier?
  • When buttons and zippers affect quality of life.
  • A hidden hazard of pill organizers.

Are Seniors Really Grouchier?

Two senior men joking around

"You kids get off my lawn!" has become a shorthand phrase reflecting the belief that older adults are crabby and bitter. But are seniors really unhappier than younger folks? Recent research from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine suggest that this belief is just a stereotype. According to Dr. Dilip Jeste, professor of neurosciences and psychiatry, although we obviously experience a decline in physical health as we grow older, our mental health may on average be much better than it was during our 20s and 30s. Jeste's study found that older adults had "higher satisfaction with life, and low levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression." What's behind this sunnier attitude? Jeste notes that through the years, we hone our coping skills for dealing with stressful events. We learn, he says, "not to sweat the little things" — and things that once seemed like big things now seem less significant. Seniors also are "more skilled at emotional regulation and complex social decision-making" — in short, those qualities commonly thought of as wisdom.

Study Suggests Adaptive Clothing is a Human Rights Issue

A recent study from the University of Missouri examined "the relationship between apparel and marginalization for people with disabilities." Arthritis, stroke, Parkinson's disease and other conditions cause physical limitations that make getting dressed a real challenge. And clothing adhering to standard proportions may not fit people with physical differences. Restrictive styles, and fasteners such as buttons, zippers and shoelaces, also present mechanical and functional barriers for people with disabilities and the caregivers who help them. Adaptive clothing is available, but, says the research team, there's a real shortage of appropriate, affordable selections. Study lead Prof. Allison Kabel reported, "While it may be an afterthought for some, clothing and appearance are not trivial." She explained, "What we wear matters in how we participate in our communities. Job interviews, court appearances, team sports and formal events are just a few examples of times when standards for appropriate dress exist. For people with disabilities, the lack of adaptive clothing is not just a burden, it is a barrier for community participation." Kabel's team calls for more innovation, production and distribution of clothing for people of every shape, size and ability.

A Surprising Pitfall of Medication Management

The average senior takes five different medications, and many older adults take more than that. What a challenge it can be to remember to take all those drugs in the right way! Many seniors put their health at risk by skipping doses, or otherwise not taking medications as prescribed. Doctors often recommend that patients use a pill organizer to help them take their medicines at the right time. These handy gadgets are great — but according to research from the University of East Anglia in the UK, a bit of caution is in order when we fill the dispenser for the first time, because we might experience increased side effects! What could cause this? School of Pharmacy researcher Dr. Debi Bhattacharya explains that when we're relying only on our memory and a shelf full of pill bottles, we are likely to forget to take doses. Then, when it seems that our medication isn't working well, our doctor might raise the dosage. Suddenly, pill organizer in place, we can end up taking too much! Dr. Bhattacharya recommends that patients who start using a pill organizer should discuss their dosage with their doctor or pharmacist. Patients and caregivers should also be alert for new or increased side effects. Dr. Bhattacharya says, "It's the switching stage which appears to be the danger."

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2016 IlluminAge