Wednesday, July 3, 2019

"LATE", a "new" dementia that isn't Alzheimer's

In May, AARP ran a story about research identifying a new dementia that is not Alzheimer's. Is It Alzheimer's ... or LATE? explains about recent results into research of cases that although thought to be Alzheimer's are not. "[A] report published in the medical journal Brain reveals that in cases involving people older than 80, up to 50 percent may, in fact, be caused by a newly identified form of dementia. It's called LATE, which is short for limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy....The news, published last month, is being heralded as a potential breakthrough, as identifying a new type of dementia could be critical for targeting research — for both LATE and Alzheimer's. In fact, the report included recommended research guidelines as well as diagnostic criteria for LATE." The disease can mimic some aspects of Alzheimer's, the story explains, and it can only be identified in an autopsy.

Here is the abstract from the study:

We describe a recently recognized disease entity, limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE). LATE neuropathological change (LATE-NC) is defined by a stereotypical TDP-43 proteinopathy in older adults, with or without coexisting hippocampal sclerosis pathology. LATE-NC is a common TDP-43 proteinopathy, associated with an amnestic dementia syndrome that mimicked Alzheimer’s-type dementia in retrospective autopsy studies. LATE is distinguished from frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 pathology based on its epidemiology (LATE generally affects older subjects), and relatively restricted neuroanatomical distribution of TDP-43 proteinopathy. In community-based autopsy cohorts, ∼25% of brains had sufficient burden of LATE-NC to be associated with discernible cognitive impairment. Many subjects with LATE-NC have comorbid brain pathologies, often including amyloid-β plaques and tauopathy. Given that the ‘oldest-old’ are at greatest risk for LATE-NC, and subjects of advanced age constitute a rapidly growing demographic group in many countries, LATE has an expanding but under-recognized impact on public health. For these reasons, a working group was convened to develop diagnostic criteria for LATE, aiming both to stimulate research and to promote awareness of this pathway to dementia. We report consensus-based recommendations including guidelines for diagnosis and staging of LATE-NC. For routine autopsy workup of LATE-NC, an anatomically-based preliminary staging scheme is proposed with TDP-43 immunohistochemistry on tissue from three brain areas, reflecting a hierarchical pattern of brain involvement: amygdala, hippocampus, and middle frontal gyrus. LATE-NC appears to affect the medial temporal lobe structures preferentially, but other areas also are impacted. Neuroimaging studies demonstrated that subjects with LATE-NC also had atrophy in the medial temporal lobes, frontal cortex, and other brain regions. Genetic studies have thus far indicated five genes with risk alleles for LATE-NC: GRN, TMEM106B, ABCC9, KCNMB2, and APOE. The discovery of these genetic risk variants indicate that LATE shares pathogenetic mechanisms with both frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease, but also suggests disease-specific underlying mechanisms. Large gaps remain in our understanding of LATE. For advances in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, there is an urgent need for research focused on LATE, including in vitro and animal models. An obstacle to clinical progress is lack of diagnostic tools, such as biofluid or neuroimaging biomarkers, for ante-mortem detection of LATE. Development of a disease biomarker would augment observational studies seeking to further define the risk factors, natural history, and clinical features of LATE, as well as eventual subject recruitment for targeted therapies in clinical trials.

The full article is available here as a pdf.

July 3, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 1, 2019

European Heat Wave Endangers Elders

So last week I posted how elders had an impact on climate change. Now I write about the impact climate change has on elders.  In case you weren't aware, there's a heat wave in Europe. In fact, one of my dear friends is teaching in our summer abroad program in Spain and he unexpectedly texted me to tell me how hot it was.  So last week's story in the Washington Post on the heatwave in France seems timely.

A heat wave killed 15,000 in France in 2003. As temperatures soar again, officials are taking no chances. explains about the various steps that French authorities are taking to offset the effect of the heatwave hitting their country, These record-breaking temperatures "scientists say are becoming more common in Europe as a result of climate change." Officials in Paris have taken a number of steps to help residents cope with the heat.  "The heat particularly threatens children, pregnant women and the elderly, city authorities warn. The city has set up a special phone service for elderly and sick people, and authorities have asked hospitals and retirement homes to be on alert. Older residents left alone made up many of the victims of the 2003 heat crisis."  The heat is record-breaking, according to the BBC.

Unusually hot temperatures are not limited to just Europe. The Tampa Bay area of Florida (where the College of Law is located), whose residents are used to hot and humid conditions this time of year, issued a heat advisory on June 26, 2019."[I]t’s rare for temperatures in Florida to climb beyond the low 90s in the summer ...  But with a high pressure system in the Atlantic blocking most of those cooling storms... the high ... should reach at least 96 – in the shade. Heat index values, meaning the temperature it feels like outside, will be 104 in Tampa and as high as 110 in the southern Bay Area."

 

July 1, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, International, Other, Science, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

At What Age Are You Old?

That's the age-old (pun intended) question, isn't it? I know my students perceive me as old, but I know in my mind I'm not as old as my chronological age would denote. So the Washington Post tackled the "how old is old?" question in a recent story, An ageless question: When is someone ‘old’?

Typically, people decide who is “old” based on how many years someone has already lived, not how many more years they can expect to live, or even how physically or cognitively healthy they are. I will soon turn 62. What does that actually tell you? Not very much, which is why, like many of my sexagenarian friends, I’m apt to claim, “Yes, age is just a number.”

So what does “old” really mean these days?

All of us who teach elder law know that asking how old is old is valid and important. It impacts eligibility for programs and benefits, for example. It's also important for the purpose of policymakers who have to make plans for aging populations, the article explains. In the U.S. we still see the use of 60 or 65 as a threshold to "old."

The United Nations historically has defined older persons as people 60 years or over (sometimes 65). It didn’t matter whether you lived in the United States, China or Senegal, even though life expectancy is drastically different in each of those countries. Nor did it depend on an individual’s functional or cognitive abilities, which can also be widely divergent. Everyone became old at 60. It was as though you walked through a door at midnight on the last day of 59, emerging a completely different person the next morning: an old person.

Two experts quoted in the article, demographers, discuss the different between chronological age and prospective age, that is "'chronological age 'tells us how long we’ve lived so far. In contrast, prospective age is concerned about the future. Everyone with the same prospective age has the same expected remaining years of life.'” One of them is quoted as saying you are old when you have a "specific life expectancy is 15 years or less. That ..  is when most people will start to exhibit the signs of aging, which is to say when quality of life takes a turn for the worse."  By this measure I'm not old yet but by golly I'm close.

The expert when on to elaborate

[For] ... folks in the United States... When are we considered old? For women, the old age threshold is about 73; for men, 70.... [The expert] layers his concept of prospective age with another quality, which he calls “characteristic aging.”... “It depends upon the characteristics of people, in which sense they are old,” he says. “Are they cognitively old? Are they physically old? Are they old in terms of their disabilities? It depends.”

Old is not a one-size fits all and not only are there variations within the U.S. there are by country.  The article is really fascinating-read it and figure out how long before you are "old."

Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending the article.

June 25, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Science of Being Susceptible To Scams

Marketplace recently ran a story about fascinating research on whether there is a correlation between age and susceptibility to scams.  Age of fraud: Are seniors more vulnerable to financial scams? opens with the story of one individual who fell victim to a "gift card" scam of almost $200,ooo. Think it can't happen to you? Here is where the science comes in.

[A researcher] and his colleagues have put a label on what they see as an all-too common condition: “age-associated financial vulnerability.”

“We are learning that there are changes in the aging brain, even in the absence of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or other neurodegenerative illnesses, that may render older adults vulnerable to financial exploitation.

The science is showing that older folks

ability to detect sketchy situations may decline. Or, we may become prone to seeing the upside of a risky deal and blow off the downside. Some people are more inclined to believe the last person they spoke to. Others may lose the ability to push back on a high-pressure predator. Researchers emphasize that this phenomenon goes way beyond changes in the brain.

“It also involves all of these other social and environmental factors like social isolation, like cultural factors and societal factors, like older adults having more wealth compared to younger generations,” said Marti DeLiema, a research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Still think it can't happen to you? The researchers are examining "age-related financial vulnerability[and]  are very interested in physical changes to the aging brain, the way eyesight and hearing can get less keen. In some cases, a new pattern of making mistakes with money may be a harbinger of cognitive bad things to come, the “first thing to go,” as it were"

Still think it can't happen to you? Read on.  The optimal age for money management is 53 years old, according to the article.  There is some advantage to age; the life experiences we acquire.  Now we all know, as the article reflects, that scams don't just target older persons.   There is no easy answer to the issue. How do you protect people from making bad decisions  or from falling for a scam?  The article references various state approaches and the federal Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act. FINRA is also asking brokers to "encourage customers to list the name of a trusted person to contact if something signals “scam.” Banks have no such rule."

The remainder of the article focuses on the responses and need for more work. Several experts offer suggestions for responses. I thought this one response was poignant: "abuse of the elderly is, at its core, lack of social support. The cure is social support. It’s possible that the best way to help vulnerable loved ones is just to be there, to be present in their lives."

Think this can't happen to you? Think again. And read this article.

May 26, 2019 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Science, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

CDC Says Dementia Deaths Up

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported last week that the Rate of dementia deaths in US has more than doubled, CDC says from the new report for the National Center for Health Statistics.

Here is the abstract from the 29 page report from the National Center for Health Statistics:

Objectives—This report presents data on mortality attributable to dementia. Data for dementia as an underlying cause of death from 2000 through 2017 are shown by selected characteristics such as age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, and state of residence. Trends in dementia deaths overall and by specific cause are presented. The reporting of dementia as a contributing cause of death is also described.

Methods—Data in this report are based on information from all death certificates filed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Using multiple cause-of-death data files, dementia is considered to include deaths attributed to unspecified dementia; Alzheimer disease; vascular dementia; and other degenerative diseases of nervous system, not elsewhere classified.

Results—In 2017, a total of 261,914 deaths attributable to dementia as an underlying cause of death were reported in the United States. Forty-six percent of these deaths were due to Alzheimer disease. In 2017, the age-adjusted death rate for dementia as an underlying cause of death was 66.7 deaths per 100,000 U.S. standard population. Age-adjusted death rates were higher for females (72.7) than for males (56.4). Death rates increased with age from 56.9 deaths per 100,000 among people aged 65–74 to 2,707.3 deaths per 100,000 among people aged 85 and over. Age-adjusted death rates were higher among the non-Hispanic white population (70.8) compared with the non-Hispanic black population (65.0) and the Hispanic population (46.0). Age-adjusted death rates for dementia varied by state and urbanization category. Overall, age-adjusted death rates for dementia increased from 2000 to 2017. Rates were steady from 2013 through 2016, and increased from 2016 to 2017. Patterns of reporting the individual dementia causes varied across states and across time.

Conclusions—Death rates due to dementia varied by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, and state. In 2017, Alzheimer disease accounted for almost one-half of all dementia deaths. The proportion of dementia deaths attributed to Alzheimer disease varies across states.

 

March 20, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Other, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 4, 2019

Frail, Old & LIving Independently

Kaiser Health News  published a story, Frail Seniors Find Ways To Live Independently. The focus of the story is on "a program for frail low-income seniors: Community Aging in Place — Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE). Over the course of several months last year, an occupational therapist visited Jeffery and discussed issues she wanted to address. A handyman installed a new carpet. A visiting nurse gave her the feeling of being looked after."

A study of the project, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Society (JAMA) Internal Medicine shows promising results. "New research shows that CAPABLE provides considerable help to vulnerable seniors who have trouble with “activities of daily living” — taking a shower or a bath, getting dressed, transferring in and out of bed, using the toilet or moving around easily at home. Over the course of five months, participants in the program experienced 30 percent fewer difficulties with such activities, according to a randomized clinical trial...."

The article also explores the costs of the program-and it saves money!  There are efforts to expand this program's reach, including approaching "Medicare Advantage plans, which cover about 19 million Medicare recipients and can now offer an array of nonmedical benefits to members, to adopt CAPABLE. Also, Johns Hopkins and Stanford Medicine have submitted a proposal to have traditional Medicare offer the program as a bundled package of services. Accountable care organizations, groups of hospitals and physicians that assume financial risk for the health of their patients, are also interested, given the potential benefits and cost savings."

Stay tuned!

February 4, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Blood Test for Alzheimer's?

CNN ran a story last week about a blood test that detects Alzheimer's. Blood test could detect Alzheimer's up to 16 years before symptoms begin, study says starts with an explanation of the "technical" aspects where the test would "measur[e] changes in the levels of a protein in the blood, called neurofilament light chain (NfL) [which] researchers believe [with] any rise in levels of the protein could be an early sign of the disease..."  The study is in the most recent issue of  Nature Medicine.

This is not a cure, but there are advantages to knowing this far in advance that the person has Alzheimer's.  For starters, as the story notes, it would help with testing of treatments. From a legal point of view, it may encourage more clients to plan. 

Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending me the link to the story.

 

January 27, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Housework-It May Be Good for Your Brain!

Hate housework? Well here's a new reason to look forward to it. According to a story on NPR, Daily Movement--Even Household Chores--May Boost Brain Health in Elderly  a recent "study finds even simple housework like cooking or cleaning may make a difference in brain health in our 70s and 80s."

The study looked at 454 older adults who were 70 or older when the research began. Of those adults, 191 had behavioral signs of dementia and 263 did not. All were given thinking and memory tests every year for 20 years.

In the last years of research before death, each participant wore an activity monitor called an accelerometer, similar to a Fitbit, which measured physical activity around the clock — everything from small movements such as walking around the house to more vigorous movements like exercise routines. Researchers collected and evaluated 10 days of movement data for each participant and calculated an average daily activity score.

...

The findings show that higher levels of daily movement were linked to better thinking and memory skills, as measured by the yearly cognitive tests.

The article discusses limitations on the study and the need for more research. In the interim, get out a dust cloth and the broom and start cleaning!

 

January 21, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Dementia Agitation

Months ago, when my family was considering alternatives for care of my mother as her health deteriorated and her home became increasingly unsafe, I was talking with different providers about the challenges of care when the individual is a heavy smoker (as my mother, at age 92, still was at the time).  There are few options, and most licensed facilities bar smoking completely or limit it to locations that are not workable for someone with impaired movement.  I joked with one provider that smoking cigarettes was prohibited but that Arizona had recently authorized medical marijuana.  Arizona Statutes Section 36-2801 permits medical marijuana for those with debilitating medical conditions, including "agitation of  alzheimer's disease." 

The provider laughed and said, "oh, we don't permit smoking of marijuana either." I wasn't up-to-date on the technology!  Apparently the preferred dispensation at that location was via "gummies."  If you google "marijuana gummies" you get a remarkable range of products.

Medical Marijuana Gummies

In this brave new world of medical marijuana, I can see reasons for the interest, especially in the search for safe and effective ways to help individuals whose form of dementia is marked by severe agitation.  Can marijuana "take the edge off" in a safe way?  Can doses be monitored and evaluated appropriately?  Do "gummies" provide reliable or consistent doses of the active ingredient, most likely THC?  Can there be an associated positive effect -- improved appetite (the proverbial "munchies")?  Are there reporting mechanisms on the effects of use, especially in facilities that provide dementia care, that will help capture success rates and any risks?  What about individuals with dementia who suffer from both agitation and delusional thinking -- could medical marijuana potentially reduce one symptom but increase another?  Is the CDC tracking medical marijuana gummies or other products in the context of dementia care?  

The National Conference for State Legislatures (NCSL) maintains a website on state medical marijuana laws.  NCSL reported that as of 11/8/18, 33 states, plus D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico, have approved "comprehensive" public medical marijuana programs, with additional states allowing limited use of "low THC, high CBD" products in limited situations that are not deemed comprehensive medical marijuana programs.

In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report based on review of "over 10,000 scientific abstracts" for marijuana health research, offering 100 conclusions related to health and ways to improve research. The conclusions are organized according to whether there is "conclusive or substantial" evidence, moderate evidence, or limited evidence about effectiveness or ineffectiveness of medical marijuana in a variety of contexts.  One conclusion suggests there is limited evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for "improving anxiety symptoms," while a separate conclusion states there is limited evidence that such substances are ineffective for "improving symptoms associated with dementia."  

I'm relatively new to review of literature associated with medical marijuana for dementia care/treatment, and welcome hearing from others who are aware of authoritative sources of information. (And just to be clear, this isn't a product we're considering for my mother!) I can see this topic becoming more important with time in our aging world, especially as additional sources of dementia-treatment evidence may become available. 

January 8, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Food and Drink, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Good Life in Later Years

The latest issue of the  Hastings Center Report is devoted to examining what gives a good life to someone in later life.  Volume 48, Issue S3 is titled What Makes a Good Life in Late Life? Citizenship and Justice in Aging Societies. All 15 of the articles are available for free. The topics run the gamut from social policies to age-friendly initiatives to housing to communities to advance directives for people with dementia, to name a few. Be sure to read the introduction before reading any of the individual articles, so you have the context of the volume. Here's the abstract for the introduction

The ethical dimensions of an aging society are larger than the experience of chronic illness, the moral concerns of health care professionals, or the allocation of health care resources. What, then, is the role of bioethics in an aging society, beyond calling attention to these problems? Once we’ve agreed that aging is morally important and that population‐level aging across wealthy nations raises ethical concerns that cannot be fixed through transhumanism or other appeals to transcend aging and mortality through technology, what is our field’s contribution? We argue that it is time for bioethics to turn toward social justice and problems of injustice and that part of doing so is articulating a concept of good citizenship in an aging society that goes beyond health care relationships.

Good stuff!

October 28, 2018 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 1, 2018

In Supreme Court Tomorrow, Oct 2, Oral Argument on Whether 8th Amendment Bars Execution of Individual With Advanced Dementia & No Memory of Crime

As type this post, in the background I can hear the televised voices of legislators on Capitol Hill arguing over the significance of loss of memory and the passage of time.  

This post is also about loss of memory.  On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, during the Supreme  Court's first day of oral arguments in the new term, the justices will hear the case of Madison v. Alabama.  The capitol crime in question occurred in 1985, and the proceedings following imposition of the death penalty have been technical  and portracted, involving detailed forensic evaluations.  Here is a summary from the ABA Journal:

“It is undisputed that Mr. Madison suffers from vascular dementia as a result of multiple serious strokes in the last two years and no longer has a memory of the commission of the crime for which he is to be executed,” said the stay application filed by his lawyers with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

“His mind and body are failing,” the filing continued. “He suffers from encephalomalacia [dead brain tissue], small vessel ischemia, speaks in a dysarthric or slurred manner, is legally blind, can no longer walk independently, and has urinary incontinence as a consequence of damage to his brain.”

 

On Feb. 26, over the objections of Alabama state officials, the high court granted full review of Madison’s case, based on the questions of whether the Eighth Amendment and relevant court precedents permit a state to execute someone who whose mental disability leaves him without memory of his commission of the capital offense, and whether evolving standards of decency bar the execution of a prisoner whose competency has been compromised by vascular dementia and multiple strokes.

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have jointly filed an amicus brief addressing the use of brain imaging to diagnose severe vascular injuries and describing reliable methods used to detect any potential for a feigned impairment in this case. They contend the assessment methods used in this instance leave "no doubt that Mr. Madison lacks a rational understanding," such that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment.

For purposes of the legal issues identified by the Court, the State of Alabama largely concedes the mental disability and the absence of memory of the commision of the capital offense, but contends that valid "penological interests in punishing a murder exist." 

October 1, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Aging, Law and Society CRN Call for Papers in Advance of 2019 Annual Meeting in D.C.

The Aging, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network (CRN) invites scholars to participate in a multi-event workshop as part of the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting scheduled for Washington D.C. from May 30 through June 2, 2019.

For this workshop, proposals for presentations should be submitted by October 22, 2018. 

This year’s workshop will feature themed panels, roundtable discussions, and rapid fire presentations in which participants can share new ideas and research projects.

The CRN encourages paper proposals on a broad range of issues related to law and aging.  For this event, organizers especially encourage proposals on the following topics:

  • The concept of dignity as it relates to aging
  • Interdisciplinary research on aging
  • Old age policy, and historical perspectives on old age policy
  • Sexual Intimacy in old age and the challenge of “consent” requirements
  • Compulsion in care provision
  • Disability perspectives on aging, and aging perspectives on disability
  • Feminist perspectives on aging
  • Approaches to elder law education

In addition to paper proposals, CRN also welcomes:

  • Volunteers to serve as panel discussants and as commentators on works-in-progress.
  • Ideas and proposals for themed panels, round-tables, or a session around a new book.

If you would like to present a paper as part of a the CRN’s programming, send a 100-250 word abstract, with your name, full contact information, and a paper title to Professor Nina Kohn at Syracuse Law, who, appropriately enough also now holds the title of "Associate Dean of Online Education!"  

September 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Retirement, Science, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics, Web/Tech, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

NYT: The Challenge of Finding Participants for Alzheimer's Drug Trials

How do you find participants for clinical drug trials, especially if related to the dreaded "A" word, Alzheimer's disease?  As outlined in The New York Times, such recruitment is not easy.  

There are 5.4 million Alzheimer’s patients in the United States. You’d think it would be easy to find that many participants for a trial like this one. But it’s not. And the problem has enormous implications for treatment of a disease that terrifies older Americans and has strained families in numbers too great to count.

 

The Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation, which is helping recruit participants for the Lilly trial, estimates that to begin finding participants, it will have to inform 15,000 to 18,000 people in the right age groups about the effort. Of these, nearly 2,000 must pass the initial screening to be selected for further tests to see if they qualify.

 

Just 20 percent will meet the criteria to enroll in Lilly’s trial: They must be aged 60 to 89, have mild but progressive memory loss for at least six months, and have two types of brain scans showing Alzheimer’s is underway. Yet an 80 percent screening failure rate is typical for Alzheimer’s trials, said John Dwyer, president of the foundation. There is just no good way to quickly diagnose the disease.

 

The onerous process of locating just 375 patients illustrates a grim truth: finding patients on whom to test new Alzheimer’s treatments is becoming an insurmountable obstacle — no matter how promising the trial.

For more, read, For Scientists Race to Cure Alzheimer's, the Math is Getting Ugly.   My thanks to colleague Laurel Terry for passing this article on to us.  

August 1, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Cautious Optimism (and, perhaps, Controversy) Follows Results on New Alzheimer's Drug

I've learned to be skeptical about reports on new medications for Alzheimer's dementia.  The reports from drug companies come and go, often fading into obscurity.  

Nonetheless, results of a large clinical trial as reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Chicago this week seem to offer more promise.  From the New York Times' article:

The trial involved 856 patients from the United States, Europe and Japan with early symptoms of cognitive decline. They were diagnosed with either mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s dementia, and all had significant accumulations of the amyloid protein that clumps into plaques in people with the disease, said Dr. Lynn Kramer, chief medical officer of Eisai, a Japan-based company that developed the drug, known as BAN2401, along with Biogen, based in Cambridge, Mass.

 

Many other drugs have managed to reduce amyloid levels but they did not ease memory decline or other cognitive difficulties. In the data presented Wednesday, the highest of the five doses of the new drug — an injection every two weeks of 10 milligrams per kilogram of a patient’s weight — both reduced amyloid levels and slowed cognitive decline when compared to patients who received placebo.

 

Of the 161 patients in the group taking the highest dose, 81 percent showed such significant drops in amyloid levels that they “converted from amyloid positive to amyloid negative,” Dr. Kramer said in an interview, meaning that the patients’ amyloid levels dropped from being considered high enough to correlate to dementia to a level below that dementia threshold.

The results discussed above apparently arise out of Phase II of the drug's testing.  An earlier report, in 2017, was more equivocal, as captured on the ALZforum website here.  

Further, as reported on Endpoints News, an "independent news organization reporting and analyzing the top global biotech and pharmaceutical R & D News of the day," a critical response is emerging since this week's public announcement:

But instead of cheering on evidence of success [for BAN2401], a large group of analysts last night zeroed in on a crucial change in the study that could have confounded the data presented — and now we have a brand new controversy to add to the literature of Alzheimer’s.

For more of the critique, read Eisai, Biogen Battered by Controversy over PhII Alzheimer's Study After Posting Positive Results.

July 27, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Future For The Aging Demographic?

The National Academies Press has released Future Directions for the Demography of Aging.This volume contains the proceedings of a workshop and the overview explains

Almost 25 years have passed since the Demography of Aging (1994) was published by the National Research Council. Future Directions for the Demography of Aging is, in many ways, the successor to that original volume. The Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to produce an authoritative guide to new directions in demography of aging. The papers published in this report were originally presented and discussed at a public workshop held in Washington, D.C., August 17-18, 2017.

The workshop discussion made evident that major new advances had been made in the last two decades, but also that new trends and research directions have emerged that call for innovative conceptual, design, and measurement approaches. The report reviews these recent trends and also discusses future directions for research on a range of topics that are central to current research in the demography of aging. Looking back over the past two decades of demography of aging research shows remarkable advances in our understanding of the health and well-being of the older population. Equally exciting is that this report sets the stage for the next two decades of innovative research–a period of rapid growth in the older American population.

Part 1 looks at trends in health and health disparities, Part 2 examines the implications of social and environmental factors, Part 3 covers families and intergenerational issues, Part 4 covers employment and retirement, Part 5 discusses cognitive issues and disability, Part 6 reviews global aging and Part 7 offers new approaches. You can purchase the softcover book here, download a free pdf of the book by clicking here or read the book online.

 

July 16, 2018 in Books, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, International, Retirement, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Sci Fi Friday: Recommending Short Story "Today I Am Paul"

Of course, I'm supposed to be finishing my exam grading.  Instead, while stopping by my office, I find a copy of a short story from one of my colleagues.  The accompanying note says,"Not even my sci-fi 'escape' is untouched by elder care issues.  Thought you'd get a kick out of this."

And indeed, I do.  I definitely recommend "Today I Am Paul," by Martin L. Shoemaker.  The author draws upon his personal experiences in visiting his mother-in-law in a nursing home to craft a true tale ... with a difference ... as the narrating caregiver is an android.  

While my printed-page-loving self recommends reading the short story, I also found a great podcast of the story being read aloud by Kate Baker and I'm linking it here, from Clarkesworld Magazine.  

I now plan to use this story to introduce my Elder Law course in the autumn.  So much to talk about, including the roles of family, caregivers, technology, fear.....   I suspect my co-blogger Becky Morgan, with her often expressed enthusiasm for tech including driverless cars, will appreciate this story too.  Happy reading or listening for Memorial Day weekend!

Many thanks to Dickinson Law Professor Matthew Lawrence for this unique, caring experience.  

May 25, 2018 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Put Your Dance Shoes On! Study: Promising Results for Seniors Who Participate in Dancing

Lisa Stegall, Assistant Professor of Biology at Hamline University, reports on positive results from a study where adults aged 60 to 80 participated in a weekly program of simple dance moves.  From her report for Academic Minute:

Once a week for nine weeks, seniors aged 60 to 80 years old participated in an hour of music and movement training called Dalcroze eurhythmics. Led by a certified instructor who played improvised music on a piano, the seniors walked in time with the music, changed directions, and handled and passed objects rhythmically. They moved individually, with a partner, and in small groups to increase social interaction.

 

Our research team, made up of faculty and students from the Exercise Science, Music, and Public Health programs, tested the participants’ walking ability before and after the intervention, and found that gait (or walking) speed significantly improved. This held true even when participants were asked to walk and perform another task at the same time, called dual tasking. This latter finding is important because most falls occur while walking, especially when also performing other tasks.

 

Why did this intervention improve dual-task walking speed by 20%? We hypothesize that the improvement was due to the multicomponent movement training that’s unique to Dalcroze eurhythmics. Stepping to the beat of the music while carrying a ball, and passing that ball to another person in time with the music requires awareness, attention, balance, and coordination. These are the same skills needed when navigating the home, neighborhood, or the grocery store.

I expect we will see Dalcroze Eurhythmics classes coming soon to a gym or dance studio near you!  My thanks to Dickinson Law colleague Laurel Terry for this tip.  

May 21, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, Science, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When I'm 64...Will I Be Relevant?

We all can sing along to that fabulous Beatles song, When I'm 64. Perhaps the Beatles were prescient, as now Kaiser Health News has published an article about remaining relevant in your life when you are 64 and beyond.... Will We Still Be Relevant ‘When We’re 64’? opens with this description

A gnawing sense of irrelevancy and invisibility suddenly hits many aging adults, as their life roles shift from hands-on parent to empty nester or from workaholic to retiree. Self-worth and identity may suffer as that feeling that you matter starts to fade. Older adults see it in the workplace when younger colleagues seem uninterested in their feedback. Those who just retired might feel a bit unproductive.

The article then segues into a discussion of various recent studies that bears out this fear of becoming irrelevant. Whether it's being important at work or important in your personal life, there is a value to being relevant, or even being needed, even if it's just giving advice to a younger person. "Having purpose and meaning forestalls loneliness, which takes an emotional and physical toll. Studies by ... researchers have found that loneliness is associated with weaker immune systems and poorer physical health."

One group in Austin, Texas (the slogan, "Keep Austin Weird")  took initiative by "finding their purpose with a community created by Aging is Cool, an active-aging company founded just over a year ago." The article discusses this community initiative as well as some other ones across the country, volunteering and continued employment. The article closes with an example for all of us: "96-year-old actress Betty White ... [who] still produces good work and she has a great amount of energy... Her entire package promotes a youthful and optimistic attitude.”

May 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Health Affairs Blog Targets "Never-Ending Misuse of Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes"

I'm always interested in articles about the use -- misuse? -- of antipsychotic medications for older adults.  Therefore I was eager to read the recent post on the Health Affairs Blog by David Introcaso entitled The Never-Ending Misuse of Antipscyhotics in Nursing Homes. The article begins:

In response to a generic question about post-market drug surveillance posed during a February 2007 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Dr. David Graham, then associate director of science and medicine in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, stated: “I would pay careful attention to antipsychotic medications. … The problem with these drugs are that we know that they are being used extensively off label in nursing homes to sedate elderly patients with dementia … . It is known that the drugs don’t work in those settings. … But the fact is, is that it increases mortality perhaps by 100 percent. It doubles mortality. So I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation on this and you probably got 15,000 elderly people in nursing homes dying each year from the off-label use of antipsychotic medications for an indication that FDA knows the drug doesn’t work. This problem has been known to FDA for years and years and years.”

I've highlighted in bold the words that are the focus of my interest:  "It is known that the [antipsychotic] drugs don't work in those settings."  No citation to authority here - and it is the authority for this statement that I would like to see.  Is there a study of the use of antipsychotic drugs showing they "don't work" for dementia patients?  What does it mean "not" to work?  Is all "use" a "misuse" for patients who "only" have dementia?

I ask because I saw my father struggle at home for several years with dementia.  As the disease robbed him of the ability to understand where he was and why he couldn't remember things, he sometimes became aggressive.  He was still very strong.  His doctor tried various mild anti-anxiety drugs, but they seemed to interact with his blood pressure issues (and perhaps his other medications).  He would sometimes swing between aggressive behavior and losing consciousness.  Finally his doctor suggested a very small dose of an antipsychotic.  My mother was desperate for help at the time -- and thus, Dad started on the drug. This is an example of "off label" use.  I was worried, and said so, because I knew the associated concerns about increased mortality for those with dementia.  I looked for specific studies of risk versus benefit and frankly, all I could find were records showing the ratio of deaths for individuals with dementia who also were taking an antipsychotic drug.  Mere correlation is not necessarily evidence of causation. What I was looking for was a careful study of risk versus benefit.   

Over time I saw that the small dose did "work" for this one individual, my father.  He wasn't "knocked out."  He wasn't "docile."  He wasn't "asleep all the time" -- typical of the accusations that are often made about misuse of antipsychotics.  What we did see was that he was much less likely to strike out an arm or push someone hard when he was frustrated (and yes, he was still frustrated).   The small dose did not interfere with his blood pressure or the other medications he was taking.  Perhaps most importantly, he continued to live at home for many more months. Eventually it was appropriate to wean him off the antipsychotic altogether.  

One anecdotal account is not evidence.  But the fact that there reportedly continues to be "widespread"use of antipsychotic drugs by the elderly means there could be some very real need for  safe, effective alternatives. Behavioral health approaches are important, but those too can have limits in effectiveness.  I'd certainly like there to be "good" studies of the use of these drugs and any drug that might be able to help a person suffering from dementia live a less tormented life.  Not zoned out and not asleep all the time, but also not likely to harm themselves or those who on a daily basis are trying to help them live as normally as possible.    

April 30, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, April 23, 2018

You Are Only as Old As You Feel!

You've heard the phrases such as "60 is the new 40." Now we learn there may be some truth to the thought that you feel younger than your chronological age.The Washington Post recently published this article, Cliches about only being as old as you feel are starting to have scientific backing.

The article focuses on research that indicates many folks who are older feel good about themselves and about the negative messages about aging that affect us all.  The article references "[o]ne study ... [that] found that as people get older, they consistently say they feel younger — much younger — than their actual age. Another study examining the attitudes of the offspring of centenarians concluded that the centenarians’ children — if they, too, were healthy and long-lived — have a strong sense of purpose and meaning to their lives, compared with the general population. Finally, there is evidence that positive attitudes about aging may reduce the risk of dementia, among the most dreaded consequences of aging."  Yet, we start being bombarded with negative messages about aging at a very young age. One expert noted  that kids even age 3 or 4 already have absorbed "the age stereotypes of their culture,” which it seems come from "many sources, ranging from stories to social media. Individuals of all ages can benefit from bolstering their positive images of aging.” Another expert quoted in the article explains that “[n]egative views about aging are communicated to us early in life, through media, books and movies, and what our friends and family tell us... [and that such] attitudes are present and pervasive already in childhood, so naturally it’s hard to enact meaningful change to these attitudes....”

Several studies are referenced in the article. The studies bear out the idea that folks who are older feel younger than their chronological ages, but as far as younger people's perceptions, they consider old to be a lower number than those who are old would offer. For example, one researcher offered that "teenagers and young adults equated turning 50 with hitting old age."

And we've all heard the saying about attitude is everything. It turns out those with positive views of aging help with reducing stress and decreasing chances of dementia. One research summarizes her findings: She "evaluated 4,765 older people — average age, 72 — who were free of dementia at the start of the study and followed them for four years. The participants answered a series of questions about their beliefs about aging [and the researchers] found [that] those who expressed more-positive age beliefs at baseline were less likely to develop dementia . . . than those who expressed more-negative age beliefs...."

So remember, the class is half-full and aging is not a bad thing!

April 23, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)