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Mature Focus: Jan. 10

Protecting Missouri seniors

State Rep. Dean Plocher [R-Dist. 89], whose congressional district includes much of the West County area, recently offered a list of resources to help inform and protect Missouri seniors.

“As a State Representative, I have many responsibilities, one of which is passing laws that help protect Missouri and the well-being of my constituents,” Plocher said. “During the last legislative session, I had local senior citizens reach out to my office requesting information that can be of assistance in their day-to-day lives. It is my goal to do all I can to protect Missouri seniors by offering helpful resources.”

Plocher’s office can be reached at (573) 751-1544 or by email at Dean.Plocher@house.mo.gov. Among the resources he can provide to area seniors upon request are:

• Senior Citizens Handbook – outlines laws and programs affecting senior citizens, including financial assistance, healthcare, housing, consumer information and personal planning.

• Probate Law Resources Guide – discusses wills, revocable living trusts, living wills and other advance directives for seniors, along with setting up Durable Powers of Attorney.

• Law and the Courts Resource Guide – provides information regarding small claims court, what to do in case of an auto accident and, citizens’ rights in traffic court.

• Business and Consumer Law Resource Guides – includes information about home buyer and tenant rights, steps to avoid home foreclosure and buying on credit.

• Identity theft information, including steps to take if your personal information is stolen.

• Resource guides on family law, domestic violence and the law, adoption and assistance for parents of children with disabilities.

• Unclaimed property information.

Fewer fractures

If more older women participated in community screenings for osteoporosis, more than a quarter of hip fractures in those women might be prevented, according to a recent study. The research, which involved more than 12,000 older women in the U.K. and recently was published in The Lancet, found that screening through general physician practices using a simple questionnaire, along with bone density testing, identified patients who should be targeted for treatment. For women who agreed to participate, this screening produced a 28-percent reduction in hip fractures over five years.

The large, multi-center study was a collaboration between several British universities and over 100 primary care practices. The researchers used a tool developed at the University of Sheffield called FRAX which predicts the probability of a hip fracture or other major osteoporotic fracture [fractures of the spine, upper arm or lower arm in addition to the hip], to identify older women at high risk.

A total of 12,483 women between the ages of 70 and 85 were recruited for the study. Half of the women were screened for osteoporosis, to compare screening with routine care. Among those who received screening, one in seven study participants was determined to be at high risk of hip fracture, and subsequently recommended for treatment. More than three-fourths of the women in this high-risk group were taking osteoporosis medications within six months of screening.

While screening did not reduce the incidence of all osteoporosis-related fractures, there was strong evidence of a reduction in hip fractures through the screening program: compared to the routine care group, there were 54 fewer women in the screening group who suffered one or more hip fractures.

“Approximately one in three women and one in five men aged over 50 years will suffer a fragility fracture during their remaining lifetime,” said lead researcher Professor Lee Shepstone, from Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia. “A hip fracture can be devastating, with loss of independence and less than one-third of patients making a full recovery. Mortality at one year post-fracture is approximately 20 percent.

“This is the first trial to show that a community-screening approach based on the FRAX fracture risk tool is both feasible and effective,” he continued. “Given that the number of costly and debilitating hip fractures are expected to increase with an aging population, the results of this study potentially have important public health implications.”

Super Mario for super seniors?

People between the ages of 55 and 75 may want to try playing 3D video games, such as Super Mario 64, to prevent mild cognitive impairment and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent Canadian study.

Researchers from the University of Montreal had previously conducted studies which showed that young adults in their twenties who regularly played 3D video games of logic and puzzles, on platforms like Super Mario 64, showed increased gray matter in the hippocampus area of their brains over time. The team wanted to see if those results could be duplicated among healthy seniors.

The hippocampus is the brain region primarily associated with spatial and episodic memory, which is key to long-term cognitive health. A declining amount of gray matter in the hippocampus is an indicator of neurological disorders that occur with aging, including cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s.

The research team recruited 33 people, ages 55 to 75, and randomly assigned them to three groups. The first group played Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day, five days a week for six months; the second group took piano lessons for the same amount of time; and the third group did not perform any specific task. Participants were evaluated at the beginning and at the end of the experiment, as well as six months later, using two different measurements: cognitive performance tests and magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] testing of their brains to measure variations in gray matter volume.

According to the MRI test results, only the participants who played Super Mario 64 saw increases in gray matter volume in both the hippocampus and cerebellum. Their short-term memory improved as well. Those who took piano lessons showed gray matter increases in the cerebellum, but not the hippocampus.  The third group showed some brain atrophy in both areas.

Why did playing 3D video games lead to increases in gray matter?  “Video games engage the hippocampus into creating a cognitive map, or a mental representation, of the virtual environment that the brain is exploring,” said Gregory West, a University of Montreal psychology professor and one of the study’s leaders. “Several studies suggest stimulation of the hippocampus increases both functional activity and gray matter within this region.”

When the brain is not learning new things, gray matter atrophies as people age, West explained. “The good news is that we can reverse those effects and increase volume by learning something new, and games like Super Mario 64, which activate the hippocampus, seem to hold some potential in that respect. These findings can also be used to drive future research on Alzheimer’s, since there is a link between the volume of the hippocampus and the risk of developing the disease,” he added.

The study results were published in PLOS One.

Local caregivers honored

Twenty caregivers ended the year as award recipients courtesy of VOYCE [formerly the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program], which recognized staff and volunteers who “embody the voice of compassion by doing an outstanding job caring for and respecting the rights of those receiving long-term care.”

Those honored as 2017 Annual Caregiver Awards recipients are Juanita Branson, volunteer, Aberdeen Heights; Teresa Brosch, CNA, LSS-Meramec Bluffs; Julie Brown, care center activity director, Friendship Village-Sunset Hills; Lorenzo Coleman, CMT/CNA, Bethesda Southgate; Sabine Fyfe, RN case manager, Vitas Healthcare; Rose Grey, LPN, LSS-Meramec Bluffs; Lucretia Hawkins-Carthans, private duty assistant, AccuCare Home Care of St. Louis; Jose Johnson, CNA, Right at Home of St. Louis; Tiffany Knebel, social worker, Bethesda Dilworth; Roxanne Lewis, caregiver, Homewatch Caregivers; Brenda Meyer, receptionist, Cori Manor;  Cindy Mitchem, LPN, Marymount Manor;  Jason Reed, caregiver, Home Care Assistance of St. Louis; Donna Roche, volunteer, BJC Hospice; William “Bill” Santen, activity assistant/bus driver, Cape Albeon; Keith Usery, housekeeping lead, Stonecrest at Clayton View; Stephanie Werbiski, personal care aid/caregiver, Continuum;  Stephanie Winston, caregiver, Home Instead Senior Care.

20-Year Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are Linda Stanford, CNA/Hospice, SSM Health at Home Hospice; Jeri Worth, on-call scheduling coordinator, AccuCare Home Care of St. Louis.

On the calendar

A Today’s Grandparents Class is offered from 6:30-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, 3023 N. Ballas Road, in Suite 400 of Building D. Cost is $20 per person; register online at https://classes-events.bjc.org.

• • •

A five-week Essentrics: Release, Rebalance & Restore course begins on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and continues each Tuesday through Feb. 27 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at St. Luke’s Hospital’s Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. Essentrics is a gentle, slow-paced age-reversing workout that restores movement in joints, flexibility and strength in your muscles and relieves pain while increasing energy level. Floor and chair exercises are included. The course fee is $30. Registration online at www.stlukes-stl.com

Important toll-free numbers for seniors: – Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: (800) 309-3282 Elder Abuse/Neglect Hotline: (800) 392-0210 – MO Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit [prosecutes nursing home resident abuse and neglect, as well as healthcare personnel suspected of Medicaid fraud]: (800) 286-3932 – Missouri No-Call list: (866) 662-2551 – Federal Citizen Information Center [provides phone numbers and general information about federal agencies and programs]: (800) 333-4636
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