Aging & Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Caregiver Skills, Medications, Senior Life

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

  • Your pet doesn't want you to smoke.
  • Overmedication linked to frailty.
  • Which age group benefits the most from volunteering?

If You Smoke, Your Pet Has a Message for You

Woman is smoking and her dog looks unhappy.

"Lassie's trying to tell us something!" If you are a smoker, the message your pet may be trying to convey is that secondhand smoke causes health problems for our animal companions. You no doubt know that children's health can be endangered if you smoke around them. If your "kids" have four legs and a tail, they too can be badly affected by breathing secondhand smoke—and also by thirdhand smoke, which is the harmful residue that builds up on carpets and furniture where a smoker lives. Explained U.S. Food and Drug Administration veterinarian Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., "Like children, cats and dogs spend a lot of time on or near the floor, where tobacco smoke residue concentrates in house dust, carpets and rugs. Then it gets on their fur." When an animal grooms itself or a furry sibling, it ingests the toxins, raising the risk of certain cancers. Cigarettes, cigars and e-cigs are equally toxic. Stamper says birds, guinea pigs and even fish also can be affected. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers more information.

Side Effects of Medicines Raise the Risk of Frailty

Frailty is a condition in which a person, usually an older adult, experiences unintentional weight loss, weakness and fatigue due to chronic health problems. It would stand to reason that frail elders would take more medications than their more robust counterparts. But a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (AGA) suggests that taking many different medications (polypharmacy) may in itself raise the risk of frailty in older patients. According to the AGA, "If you're an older adult, or if you're caring for someone who is older, it's important to understand that taking multiple medicines can cause interactions. The medicines can interact with each other and with the human body in harmful ways (by increasing negative side effects or decreasing desired effects, for example). As a result, the risk for falls, delirium, and frailty also increases." The AGA advises senior patients to discuss their medications with their healthcare provider. Said study author Kai-Uwe Sam, Ph.D., MPH, "In a perfect world, your physician would talk about your medications with a pharmacist and a geriatrician. This might help to reduce avoidable multiple drug prescriptions and possibly also lessen medication-induced risks for frailty and other negative effects of unnecessary, avoidable polypharmacy." Caution: never discontinue a medication or change the way you take it without consulting your doctor.

Senior Volunteers Benefit the Most

April 23 – 29 is National Volunteer Week 2017. Many worthy organizations benefit from the time and talents of people who volunteer. And in turn, volunteer service promotes physical, emotional and cognitive health. Recently, a research team from the UK noted that volunteering offers many benefits for older adults—indeed, the older we get, the more we benefit. Study author Dr. Faiza Tabassum of the University of Southampton says that seniors who volunteer are more active and have a higher level of overall well-being. She added, "Volunteering may also provide a sense of purpose, particularly for those people who have lost their earnings, because regular volunteering helps contribute to the maintenance of social networks, and this is especially the case for older people, who often live in isolation." There are volunteer opportunities for almost everyone, no matter their health condition or age. What a great way to improve our sense of well-being while giving back to the community!

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2017 IlluminAge