Dr. Heidi Keeler prepares to welcome visitors to the Gero Nurse Prep Booth at the AHCA/NCAL Convention. Those who stopped by received the latest information on how ANCC board certification can help them “See More Stars.”
From both an individual and a public health perspective, frailty is one of the most important conditions affecting older people. Along with dementia, which is really just cognitive as opposed to physical frailty, it is a devastating syndrome. Frailty predisposes to recurrent hospitalizations and leads to the dreaded cascade of iatrogenic complications once someone is in the hospital. Frailty leads to nursing home placement and to disability and death. So a recent consensus statement discussing how to approach frailty is one of the most exciting and significant papers to appear in the recent geriatric literature. Published in a third tier medical journal, it’s only by chance that I stumbled on the article at all.
No one wants to be labeled “frail.” It’s up there along with “elderly” or “old” as a term everyone seems to want to avoid. But far better to prevent or treat the condition than to pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s time for doctors to pay attention to frailty—to recognize when it’s present and to intervene when possible. How’s that for a New Year’s Resolution!
Murriel Gillick, “Fragile Handle with care”, http://blog.drmurielgillick.com/2013/12/fragile-handle-with-care.html
Pressure ulcers – commonly called bedsores — are a big problem in the United States. More than 2.5 million U.S. residents develop pressure ulcers every year, with about 60,000 people dying each year from pressure ulcer complications.
Today is International Stop Pressure Ulcer Day, a day dedicated to bringing awareness to the causes and ways to prevent pressure ulcers.
“This is not just a problem for patients and their families, but also health facilities,” said Joyce Black, Ph.D., associate professor in UNMC’s College of Nursing, who is recognized as a national expert in pressure ulcers. “The government won’t reimburse for Medicare and Medicaid expenses if patients get pressure sores.”
Pressure ulcers can develop in as little as three hours as a result of sitting or lying too long in the same position, she said. Those who are bedridden are most at risk, including those in hospitals and long term care facilities like nursing homes. It can happen in the home as well.
“Ulcers develop quickly depending on how hard the surface is that you’re on and how much fat padding a person has,” Dr. Black said. “Thin, frail individuals develop them more quickly.”
She said pressure ulcers develop due to pressure on the soft tissues when patients don’t move or continuously slide down in a chair. The blood in the area stops and the tissue dies. Most problems with ulcers occur on the buttocks, tailbone and the heel of the foot.
Tips on prevention and treatment
Dr. Black has these tips for preventing and treating minor pressure ulcers.
- Sit or lay in different position, walk if you can.
- Stay off the sore spot until the pain or red or purple color goes away.
- Put a pillow under the calf of the leg to keep the heel off of the bed.
- Don’t rub the skin. It may tear.
- Keep skin clean. The healthier you can keep skin the less chance of skin breakdown.
- Make sure diapers get changed.
- Turn individuals every three hours if they are on a good mattress. Every two hours if mattress is thin, frayed or worn.
- Cover wound with dressing or apply topical antibiotic to keep wound clean.
- Ask what the facility is doing to reduce or prevent bed sores and if you can help.
- Ask how they are turning your loved one to get them off their back (individual should be turned on their sides-family members can help).
- Ask what kind of mattress the patient is sleeping on. An old spring mattress with an inch padding is not adequate. Family may be well advised to go to a bedding store and get two inches of memory foam so there is more padding on the bed.
- Make sure the patient is eating a well-balanced meal (not junk food).
- UNMC News, “JOYCE BLACK, PH.D., Highlights Dangers of Pressure Ulcure” – http://app1.unmc.edu/PublicAffairs/TodaySite/sitefiles/today_full.cfm?match=11962&pk_campaign=email&pk_kwd=Joyce_Black_PhD_highlights_dangers_of_pressure_ulcers
Showing We Care
Since the 1990s, physicians and patients have been fighting over futility. The doctors look at a patient who is dying and say that further tests and treatment cannot possibly work and shouldn’t be done. The patients, or more commonly their families, look at those same patients and say that they want “everything done” to try to prolong life.
As often happens in the US, the futility battle ended up in the court room. In the case of Helga Wanglie, an 86-year-old woman in a vegetative state after hip surgery, the doctors went to court over whether the patient’s husband had the right to insist that she remain on a ventilator. The court, as also often happens, didn’t address the issue of whether the ventilator was or was not appropriate treatment for Mrs. Wanglie; it simply ruled that her husband, as her surrogate, had the right to make the decision. After that case, many physicians concluded that the fight over futility was itself futile. For the last 15 years, physicians have tried to focus on determining a patient’s goals of care and then suggesting what treatments are most consistent with those goals. When they still cannot agree with family members about the right course of action, they resort to mediation, sometimes provided by a hospital ethics committee. But simmering below the surface, conflicts over perceived futility rage bubble vigorously.
A short article in the New England Journal of Medicine, “The Debt of Life—Thai Lessons on a Process-Oriented Ethical Logic,” offers a refreshing way of looking at futility. Based on his experiences doing ethnographic field work in Thailand while a graduate student in Anthropology, physician Scott Stonington shines a new light on the typical ICU dilemma. The physicians, he reports, are loathe to perform various possible tests and treatments because they think in terms of outcomes. They argue that their interventions won’t work in the sense that they won’t overcome the existing medical problems and that they are burdensome to the patient and, parenthetically, expensive. The patient’s family, he observes, think in terms of the process of care. He comments on one Thai family who said that their father had given them “flesh, blood, and breath” so they had a “debt of life” to pay. The ICU, they reasoned, allowed them to repay their debt: it gave their father flesh (tube feedings for nutrition), blood (intravenous medications and dialysis to cleanse the blood), and breath (a ventilator for breathing). The family was not so much interested in the outcome of treatment as in the treatment itself. In this scenario, the conflict was ultimately resolved when the family came to the conclusion that they had paid their debt and further aggressive care could be discontinued.
I made a very similar argument in my essay, “The Standard of Caring: Why Do We Still Use Feeding Tubes in Patients with Advanced Dementia?” I noted that it had been over 10 years since a series of studies in the medical literature reported that feeding tubes (a tube inserted into the stomach to provide nutrition) did not prolong life in patients with advanced dementia who had eating difficulties. These patients are nearing the end of their lives and no matter what procedures they have, their prognosis remains pretty much the same. Not only don’t the tubes prolong life, but they don’t accomplish a variety of other goals that doctors had hoped they might: preventing pressure ulcers (skin breakdown that is often related to malnutrition) or preventing pneumonia (caused by food going into the lungs instead of the stomach). As a result of these studies, the rate of tube feeding people with advanced dementia has declined, but it is still far from zero. I suggest that the reason some families want a feeding tube is to show that they care. It’s not that they expect to improve some quantifiable outcome—living longer or avoiding pneumonia. It’s that they want to have a way to demonstrate caring. For the same reason, we keep people with advanced dementia clean and dressed. We don’t require a study that shows that they will be less likely to develop an infection if they are kept clean. We don’t demand proof that they will live longer if they are clothed. We assume that being clean and clothed contribute to well-being because they are among the only ways we as caregivers have of showing respect for the human being who happens to have dementia. Tube feeding, from this perspective, is a means of proving that we care.
Murriel Gillick, “Showing we care”, http://blog.drmurielgillick.com/2013/11/showing-we-care.html
New Feature! Check out the latest at Gero Nurse Prep! We have prepared a demo site to help you decide if Gero Nurse Prep is right for you. The demo contains a sampling of choice topics, and was constructed with the look and feel of the full course.
Access the demo, and find out more information about the full course at www.geronurseprep.org
The risk for developing cataracts, a leading cause of impaired vision and blindness, is higher among individuals using statins as compared with nonusers, according to the results of a recent propensity score–matched cohort study.
Previous studies on the link between this popular class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels and cataracts have yielded mixed results.
For their analysis, Jessica Leuschen, MD, Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgery Center and San Antonio Military Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, and colleagues reviewed data from 2003 to 2010 from the medical records of patients enrolled in a military healthcare system.
Patients were split into two groups based on prescription refills during fiscal year 2005: statin users and nonusers. Statin users were defined as those who had taken statins for at least 90 days, and nonusers were individuals who had never used a statin throughout the course of the study.
Continue reading here: Statin Use Associated With Cataract Development – Consultant360.com
Leuschen J, Mortensen EM, Frei CR, Mansi EA, Panday V, Mansi I. Association of statin use with cataracts: a propensity score-matched analysis. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013 Sep 19. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.4575. [Epub ahead of print]