Tag Archives: gerontology

How to leverage local angles on fall prevention


Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director, National Institutes of Health, speaks at Health Journalism 2011.

One of the NIH initiatives highlighted last week by director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., during his keynote at the Gerontological Society meeting was a 5-year, $30 million cooperative effort with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute  (PCORI) to conduct a clinical trial testing individually-tailored interventions to prevent fall-related injuries.

Why is this important? Because, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, one in three adults over age 65 experiences at least one fall annually; 20 percent to 30 percent of which cause moderate to severe injuries — or even death. Falls lead to increased hospitalizations, higher medical costs, loss of independence, diminished quality of life, and affects other chronic conditions. According to the CDC, older adults are hospitalized five times more often for fall-related injuries than for other causes. Direct medical costs of fall injuries for people 65 and older was $30 billion in 2012 and by 2020, total direct and indirect costs are projected to more than double.

As of July 2014, nine states have enacted or are considering legislation on fall-prevention initiatives. Many others are partnering with community organizations to educate providers and seniors about the risks. As Kate Hafner wrote in this New York Times piece, the problem is only growing worse.

More peace of mind may come at a price for consumers. Fall-related wearable technology is big business. Consumer Reports recently profiled six different medical alert systems. At the recent National Association of Home Care and Hospice annual conference, I saw at least another half-dozen new products on exhibit — the latest of which incorporate GPS tracking, providing an ability to find the wearer regardless of location. Others monitor a wearer’s balance, alerting clinicians to assess potential health issues before a fall occurs.

There are plenty of ideas and opportunities to focus on falls in the elderly in your community – home risk assessment and safety programs, hospital admissions, costs of rehab, and loss of independence and ability to age in place are just a few ideas. Or take a look at the business side of falls — from health costs to entrepreneurs.

See this tip sheet for more information on how falling affects older adults.

Gero is “hot science:” NIH Director Collins

The National Institutes of Health remains strongly committed to the future of aging research, said NIH Director Francis S. Collins during Thursday’s kickoff of the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

During his keynote speech at the GSA meeting, Collins highlighted several areas of research that are getting recent notice by mainstream media, including the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), bio markers to map cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease and a 5-year, $30 million fall prevention project.

Collins also described several research successes at NIH and its National Institute on Aging since the NIA’s founding in 1974.  “Life expectancy has increased. Deaths from cardiovascular disease are down 70 percent in the last 60 years,” he said. “Cancer deaths are also down, although not enough, but have dropped about one percent a year for the last 15 years.” Every one percent decline saves the U.S. About $500 billion in costs, he noted.

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Senate committee brings together cross-disciplinary aging researchers

aging-committeeLeaders of some of the top aging research programs in the U.S. discussed the challenges and frustrations surrounding aging research on Tuesday during the Senate Special Committee on Aging Roundtable on “Tackling Diseases of Aging: Why Research Collaboration Matters,” which was broadcast online. Committee Chairman Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), convened the session, which focused in part on the emerging field of geroscience.

Geroscience attempts to bridge the gap between the fundamental biological processes that underlie aging and clinical work on aging-related disease and disability. Twenty divisions within the National Institutes of Health and the Gerontological Society of America are working within a gerontological research interest group to develop cross-disciplinary research recommendations to advance geroscience, said Richard Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging. Continue reading

Experts with ties to drugmakers promoted prescribing opiates to older patients

Should older adults use powerful narcotics for ongoing pain relief?

This is a much-debated topic in geriatric circles. Last week, it burst into the public sphere with an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today by John Fauber and Ellen Gabler.

Their story focuses on a 2009 recommendation by the American Geriatrics Society that physicians consider prescribing opiates more often to seniors with moderate to severe pain.

Potential conflicts of interest may have compromised the Geriatric Society’s guidelines, Fauber and Gabler discovered. Five of 10 panel members who prepared the report had financial ties with opiate drugmakers and a sixth member began serving as a speaker for a drug company in the following year.

In another disturbing finding, Fauber and Gabler reveal that a pain guide endorsed by the Geriatrics Society and funded by an opioid drugmaker highlighted benefits of narcotics while downplaying risks – the potential for addiction, cognitive problems, overdosing, falls and fractures, and the enhancement rather than diminishment of pain.

“None of these side effects was included” in the document; instead, it claimed that “opioids allow people with chronic pain to get back to work, run and play sports,” they write.

The Geriatrics Society told the reporters that it stands behind the guide and is “deeply concerned that public policy may create barriers that will limit older adults’ access to pain medicine.”

In a sidebar, Fauber and Gabler examine a related issue in this controversy: the contention that alternatives to opioids – common over-the-counter drugs such as Aleve, Advil and Motrin – can have more deleterious health effects than narcotics. Continue reading