Aging & Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Care for the Caregiver, Mental and Emotional Health, Family

Information, updates and interesting tidbits

In this issue:

  • For older adults, gossip has an upside.
  • Caring for family caregivers.
  • Is your smartphone a pain in the neck?

Women at a squaredance gossiping

The Positive Side of Gossip

There's a classic southernism: "Bless her heart." It's usually said after one person makes a critical observation about another, yet — however catty the comment — it usually conveys a sense of concern and affection.

Stacey Torres, a University of California San Francisco School of Nursing professor, recently studied a group of older adults over the course of five years, analyzing their conversations and the role of gossip among them. Her study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, found that gossip helps seniors stay connected with others. Said Torres, "I identify three main ways gossip helped participants avoid isolation: gossip as a means of setting group limits and establishing the boundaries of acceptable behavior; as entertainment and activity; and as information sharing." She noted that most of these discussions contained genuine concern. So, while it's good to avoid mean-spirited chatter about others, it might be that "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" isn't entirely true!

Johns Hopkins Study: Family Caregivers Need Care

"Is your mom taking her medications?" "How has your dad's pain level been at night?" "Can you bring him in on Monday afternoon for an x-ray?" There's a growing realization that family caregivers are an important part of the care team for senior patients. During a senior's healthcare appointments, doctors and other staff are more likely than ever to ask for input from family who accompany their loved one. In fact, a 2020 study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that close to 90% of family caregivers say healthcare workers solicit and listen to their input.

Yet only 28.2% of the caregivers polled had been asked about their own needs. "These results suggest that we as a society could do a better job of supporting family caregivers, who are providing the lion's share of day-to-day care to older adults with activity limitations," said study author Jennifer Wolff, Ph.D.

Wolff and her team say identifying ways to care for caregivers could significantly improve the quality of care for the growing number of seniors in the nation. For example, says Wolff, "That could mean identifying caregivers who could use care-related education and training, or who simply need a break, for example, through temporary respite care of the older adult patient."

Is Your Smartphone a Pain in the Neck?

Most of us know that good posture is important, and maybe we are conscious of being properly aligned as we're standing and walking or sitting in a chair.

But experts from Orlando Health report that American adults spend on average between three and four hours each day using their smartphones — and they're usually hunched over and slouched as they look down at their devices. This misalignment can put a lot of strain on the body. "In fact," noted exercise physiologist Nathaniel Melendez, "For every inch your head moves in front of your body, 10 pounds of pressure is added to your shoulders. If, for example, your head is four inches in front of your body when you're looking down at your phone, that's like having a child sitting on your shoulders that whole time.”

Melendez says that the resulting poor posture can cause back and neck pain, circulation problems, heartburn and digestive issues. Talk to your doctor about ways you can improve your posture.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2020 IlluminAge