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Home Health Blog

Health News Round-Up: Building a Better Shingles Vaccine

Posted by Carolyn Harmer on May 2, 2015 10:00:00 AM

New Shingles Protection Shows Promise for Seniors

Drug development, proper instruction for managing heart disease, risk factors for cognitive decline, and more.If you’ve ever suffered through chickenpox, then you’re at risk for shingles. Although chickenpox subsides over time, the virus that causes it stays dormant in your body for the rest of your life. In some cases, it can be reactivated and cause an outbreak of shingles: a painful, uncomfortable condition that can cause a rash and/or blistering on the skin, as well as residual nerve pain.

Shingles risk increases with age, but ironically, the only shingles vaccine currently approved for use in the United States is less effective in older populations. But that could be changing in the future, with the latest report by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline about its new vaccine in development. In a large-scale trial of more than 15,000 human subjects, researchers found that this new shingles vaccine was markedly effective, and the prevention rate held steady even in the patient group over 70 years of age. Like all drugs, the vaccine must face a rigorous review and approval process in order to be authorized for use by the FDA, but the promising completion of the latest trial represents another step toward better shingles protection for seniors.

(A more effective shingles vaccine could be on the way for people who need it most – seniors; Washington Post)

For Heart Disease, ‘Health Literacy’ Is Crucial

While heart failure cannot be cured, this chronic disease can be managed with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. However, there are many complex components of successful disease management, including medication management and careful self-monitoring of weight, blood pressure, and symptoms. Now, researchers at Vanderbilt University report that long-term survival with heart failure is closely tied with ‘health literacy,’ a term referring to a patient’s ability to use and understand healthcare information.

The research team’s results (published in the Journal of the American Heart Association) showed that for the more than 1,000 patients studied, those who did not report problems learning about their condition or filling out complicated medical forms had a higher survival rate. The study underlines the importance of asking questions for better comprehension, and also of having a skilled care team to turn to for knowledge and support. Programs like Residential Home Health’s CHAMP (Cardiopulmonary Hospital Admit Management Program) emphasize personalized coaching and careful clinician oversight for patient empowerment that gets results.

(Health literacy important for heart failure patient survival; Reuters)

Tracking Rising Elder Care Costs

In its annual report, insurance provider Genworth Financial details the rising costs of long-term health care. The trend of increasing health care expenses has continued for 2015, but the rate of increase varied among different types of care — with nursing home care showing the greatest increase nationwide. For seniors and loved ones contemplating future care options and weighing financial decisions, the report also breaks down median costs by state for better advanced care planning. The complete 2015 Cost of Care Survey is available online.

(Nursing Care Costs Top $91,000, Study Says; U.S. News & World Report)

Other News

  • A new study showed that patients with sleep apnea (a pattern of interrupted breathing and oxygen loss during sleep) exhibited cognitive decline an average of 10 years earlier than patients without the disorder. Importantly, treatment using a C.P.A.P. machine almost completely reversed that trend. (Treating Sleep Apnea May Ward Off Memory Decline; NYT Well blog)
  • ‘They keep me young’: apparently not just a saying any more. (Caring for grandchildren good for elderly, research shows; The Irish Times)
  • With new cautionary research about using aspirin preventatively, a reminder that recommendations can change, and that the best treatment advice for you comes from your physician. (Maybe You Should Rethink That Daily Aspirin; NPR)
  • Help a loved one clear clutter and organize with these tips. (Elder Spring Cleaning; Inside Elder Care)
  • More conditions, more providers, more coverage options, more methods of communication — no wonder there’s a growing trend for ‘coordinating’ care among physicians, clinicians, and patients. If you’re having trouble juggling numerous aspects of care, asking for help managing your case may open new doors. (The Tangle of Coordinated Health Care; New York Times)
  • Individually, type 2 diabetes and depression each represent a risk factor for Alzheimer’s or dementia. A new study found that both together posed an even greater risk. (Depression and diabetes combined may create even higher risk of cognitive decline; MNT)
  • Here’s a great, boiled-down look at the many facets of securing a loved one’s care while he or she ages in place. (15 Tips on Providing In-Home Health Care; Inside Elder Care)

Topics: Dementia, Caregiving, Diabetes, Aging In Place, Health News, Heart Disease, Financial Health