Posts Tagged ‘aging adults’

Memory, Dementia Risk and Sleep as You Age

grandparent with grandsonMisplacing car keys; momentarily forgetting someone’s name: these are common memory lapses that can happen to anyone – regardless of their age. Older adults are often concerned that occasional forgetfulness or the inability to recall information as quickly as they once did is a sign of dementia. Fortunately, it’s not.

But, if you’re an older adult and memory loss is interfering with your daily life, you should talk to a loved one or your primary care provider. Together, you can get to the bottom of what’s causing your memory issues and make a plan to address your symptoms.

Get peace of mind with these important insights on your mind and aging.

Is Forgetfulness a Sign of Dementia?

Forgetfulness is not always a warning sign of dementia. It’s common for older adults to become a little more forgetful or take a little longer to remember a name or detail. Dementia, on the other hand, is a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills that impacts the quality of your life.

The Alzheimer’s Association has put together a list of 10 warning signs that could indicate your memory loss may be more than just the natural aging process:

  1. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  2. Changes in mood or personality
  3. Confusion with time or place
  4. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  5. Memory loss disrupts daily life
  6. Misplacing things and inability to retrace steps
  7. New problems with speaking or writing
  8. Poor judgment
  9. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  10. Withdrawal from work or social activities

Learn more about each of these warning signs.

Does Old Age Cause Dementia?

Dementia is caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain. This damage can occur in several different areas of the brain. The term “dementia” actually refers to several different groups of neurological disorders, often grouped by symptoms or the area of the brain affected.

The risk of developing dementia does increase as you age, but the disease itself is not caused by aging. Risk factors also include:

  • Cardiovascular risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, etc.)
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Family history
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking

Does Sleep Impact Mental Health?

As you age, your sleep pattern begins to change. You may find it more difficult to fall asleep at night and stay asleep. Older adults also spend less time in deep, dreamless sleep – which means you wake up easier, still feeling tired.

All of these changes – and subsequent lack of sleep – can impact your mental health. Sleep deprivation may increase your risk of depression, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health conditions. If you’re struggling to sleep every night, talk to your doctor. Your primary care physician can get to the root of the problem and help you craft a plan to feel better rested and recharged every morning.

Emory Healthcare

At Emory Healthcare, we’re here to help you find the care you need when you need it. With more than 2,800 doctors and 300 locations, including 11 hospitals, as well as primary care offices, urgent cares and MinuteClinics, we’re delivering specialized care across the region. Get and stay healthy with the help of a primary care physician. Find a doctor near you.


About Dr. Pena Garcia

Dr. Jorge Pena GarciaJorge Pena Garcia, MD, is a primary care physician in the Geriatric Medicine clinic at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital Campus. In 2012, Dr. Pena Garcia graduated from the Universidad Central del Ecuador Facultad de Ciencias Medicas in Quito.

He took an internship in internal medicine at SSM St. Mary’s Hospital-St. Louis and a fellowship in geriatric medicine at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial. He is a geriatric medicine specialist with clinical interests that also include family medicine, preventive care, primary care, and adult health. Dr. Pena Garcia, who grew up in Quito, Ecuador, is fluent in both Spanish and English. He feels privileged to take care of Atlanta’s Latino and Hispanic community, as he speaks the language and understands the culture.


Aging Parents and Multiple Health Problems – Live Chat Takeaways

aging-parents-emailAs we age, the likelihood of developing multiple ongoing conditions increases. These problems can include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure, to name a few. On Tuesday, August 2nd many joined Anthony Nguyen, MD, Emory Healthcare Regional Medical Officer for the Emory Coordinated Care Centers, part of the Emory Healthcare Network Advantage program, to learn more about care coordination for aging adults, health management and how caregivers – and patients themselves- can  best communicate with their doctors.

Thanks to such a great turnout, we were able to answer quite a few questions that were submitted both prior to and during the chat. Below are some highlights from the live chat. View the full chat transcript here.


Question: Are there doctors in the metro area who offer comprehensive care for older adults?

Dr. Nguyen: All patients should have a primary care physician to help manage one’s overall care. A general internist or family practice physician may see a wide array of patients, including older adults. However, a geriatrician specializes in older adults who have multiple ongoing medical conditions and medications. Emory Healthcare has numerous geriatricians and primary care physicians in its network. It also has developed a new care model to assist its providers in delivering comprehensive care for older adults.

Visit to learn more about the Emory Coordinated Care Centers and the specific services available for aging adults.


Question: How do you work with in home care providers to assist with following your care plans?

Dr. Nguyen: There are many different types of in-home care providers. Home health providers are assigned by orders from a physician. In order to continue home healthcare services, there is communication between the home health agency and the primary care physician. Communication may come in the form of fax, letters, or direct phone calls. Here, the Emory Coordinated Care Center offers registered nurse case management to assist in carrying out patient care plans.


Question: A friend’s mom recently fell, and after the initial injury, it seemed like her health deteriorated rapidly. Why is that? How can I help my own parent avoid that?

Dr. Nguyen: It is more difficult for an older person to recover because of other possible underlying conditions they had prior to the fall. Immobility after a fall can also lead to slower recovery. The best ways to prevent a fall are to stay active. Depending on your health conditions, you may require balance exercises, appropriate assistive devices and making sure your environment is safe. Having your hearing and vision checked regularly could also help prevent falls.


Thank you to everyone who participated in our live chat. You can read the full chat transcript here and learn more about Emory Coordinated Care Centers below.


Seniors Tango Their Way to Improved Mobility and Coordination

A pretty remarkable study is currently being conducted at Wesley Woods Towers, part of the Wesley Woods Health Center. Researchers are incorporating the tango, yes the Latin American ballroom dance, into senior life at the retirement community. The hope is that its effects will positively benefit mobility, balance, and motor skills of the 20 senior participants. The study, being spearheaded by Atlanta Veterans Affair researcher Madeleine Hackney, PhD, involves seniors ranging in age from 60 to 95 who will participate in 20 tango classes over a period of ten weeks.

To gauge the effects of the dance classes, after all 20 classes have been completed, each senior will participate in a series of standardized assessments to measure the specific physical and emotional benefits achieved from the dance program. However, according to some participants, benefits are already being seen.

For example, Ed Sporleder, a 77-year-old dance program participant notes, “Some people who were having a tough time walking are now able to walk with coordination and larger steps to propel themselves forward. The Emory volunteers are marvelous, and everyone is having a wonderful time.”Wesley Woods Seniors Tango Dancing Video

More than just improved mobility and emotional well being, the tango may also prove to help seniors with low vision and impaired coordination. As Hackney remarks, “There is evidence that it may help frail, older individuals with sensor motor impairments, in terms of balance, gait and coordination. Tango also incorporates the healthy and safe use of motor skills that may be impaired by low vision and other health challenges, such as Parkinson’s disease. […] Tango has simpler basic step elements and less restricted movement patterns than dances like the waltz and foxtrot. Tango dancers must plan their movements ahead of time but because of tango’s great flexibility, dancers can expand their motor repertoire through movement improvisation.”

We will continue to follow this extraordinary story and study and will be sure to follow up via our blog to share the results.