Error
  • JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 564
  • JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 563
Stephen Bright, Curtin University and Ann Roche, Flinders University

When we think about who experiences harm caused by alcohol, most people think about young people. However, Australian data show the rate of risky drinking among young people has been decreasing, while risky drinking among older adults has been increasing.

The consumption of cannabis shows a similar trend. This is of significant concern since older adults are at elevated risk of alcohol-related harm.

Why are older drinkers more at risk?

The Australian government has specific guidelines for the general population to minimise the potential of alcohol-related harm. However, these guidelines simply recommend that older adults drink less. This is because there is a lack of specific research to indicate more precise levels for low-risk drinking among older people.

Older adults are at increased risk of experiencing alcohol-related harms for three main reasons.

First, with age, the body becomes less effective at metabolising alcohol. This means alcohol has a more potent impact on an older person compared to a younger person consuming the same amount of alcohol. In turn, this increases the likelihood of injury and falls among older people who drink.

Second, older adults are more likely to be taking a range of medications that can interact with alcohol and cause an adverse drug event. A recent study found that 60% of drinkers were taking at least one medication that could adversely react with alcohol. Many of these medications can severely interact with alcohol. For example, drinking alcohol while taking certain blood-thinning medications could cause increased risk of death from haemorrhaging.

Third, older people are likely to experience health conditions that can be exacerbated by the effects of alcohol. For example, high blood pressure and heart disease can be more difficult to treat when a person drinks alcohol. In addition, alcohol is a known carcinogen. As such, it is recommended that cancer survivors abstain from alcohol and that alcohol consumption be minimised to avoid the risk of developing various forms of cancer.

Older Australians have more time and less responsibility, so they may find their drinking increases. from www.shutterstock.com

While some older people who experience alcohol-related problems have been heavy drinkers for much of their life, there are others whose previously moderate drinking escalates with age.

Various events associated with ageing can precipitate the onset of problems associated with alcohol. Such events include loss of identity associated with retirement, more free time and less responsibility. Some older people’s drinking escalates as a result of grief associated with losing a loved one, or inability to engage in activities due to health conditions, or loneliness and isolation.

The role of health-care professionals

Australia’s drinking guidelines suggest that each older adult should seek advice from their GP about what constitutes a safe drinking limit for them that takes into account all of the risks. However, most older adults don’t know about these risks. They are therefore unlikely to seek such advice from their GP.

Conversely, many health-care professionals are reluctant to ask older people about their use of alcohol and other drugs. Most don’t think that the lovely old lady or gentlemen that they see might have a problem with alcohol. Even if concerned, they may feel embarrassed to ask them about their substance use.

Not asking about drinking patterns and levels can result in health-care professionals treating what they believe to be the symptoms of a medical problem, when in fact the symptoms are related to the use of alcohol or other drugs.

To support health professionals to navigate this delicate area, we have published Australia’s first guidelines for health professionals. This provides the necessary skills to assess older adults' use of alcohol and other drugs.

We hope health-care professionals will now be better able to identify older adults at risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm and provide appropriate advice and support. We also hope more older adults will be referred for specialist treatment to address their use of alcohol and other drugs.

Treatment services

Older adults are less likely to engage with traditional treatment services, such as counselling and rehabilitation. They may perceive such services to be for younger people, or lacking mobility access or an appropriate atmosphere.

Many other countries such as Canada, the United States and the Netherlands have developed services specifically for older adults. However, in Australia there is currently only one older-adult-specific treatment service.

The guidelines we have published will assist other treatment services to implement older adult-specific services. We hope this will lead to more such age-specific treatment in Australia.

The Conversation

Stephen Bright, Registered psychologist and sessional academic, Curtin University and Ann Roche, Professor and Director of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Flinders University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Aeron Hurt, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza

It’s that time of year again when scientists and doctors make predictions about the impending influenza (flu) season and we must decide whether to go out and get the flu vaccine.

The government-funded flu vaccine will be available from 20 April, a month later than most years, as the vaccine has been reformulated to cover a new strain. But some GPs may offer the vaccine privately before then.

So, who should consider getting the vaccine and who gets it for free? And are we really in for a bad flu season in Australia?

How does the vaccine work?

The flu vaccine helps prevent us from getting the flu each season. It contains dead, broken-up bits of flu viruses that are expected to circulate during the upcoming season.

Once injected into our arms, the pieces of dead virus stimulate our body’s immune response to produce antibodies, which act as a defence that can rapidly swing into action when a live flu virus infects our nose and throat.

Because the viruses in the vaccine are dead, they can’t give us flu.

What’s new about flu vaccines in 2015?

For the first time, Indigenous children are able to access free flu vaccine in Australia.

This is important because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are five times more likely to be hospitalised with flu and pneumonia than non-Indigenous children. Indigenous children are also 17 times more likely to die from flu or pneumonia than non-Indigenous children.

Australia’s vaccine has been updated to protect against the harmful new A(H3N2) viruses. El Alvi/Flickr, CC BY

This year a new flu vaccine, known as “quadrivalent”, will be available. This type of vaccine contains four flu viruses compared with three in the normal trivalent vaccine. The additional flu strain provides extra insurance that may be useful if unexpected viruses begin to circulate.

However, it’s likely that the standard trivalent vaccine will cover the great majority of the flu A and B strains expected to circulate in Australia this winter.

The quadrivalent vaccine won’t be available via the government’s free flu vaccine program and will be more expensive than the standard trivalent vaccine if purchasing it privately.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

For certain members of the community, catching flu can lead to severe illness or death. It is these “high-risk” groups (listed below) that should actively avoid catching it. Getting the flu vaccine is a major step towards achieving protection from flu.

Certain groups of individuals at high risk of developing severe illness or complications if infected with flu are eligible for free flu vaccine via the federal government. These are:

  • Anyone aged 65 years or over

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged between six months and five years

  • Pregnant women

  • Anyone with with medical conditions that can lead to severe influenza, including people with heart disease, severe asthma and diabetes. A full list of eligible medical conditions can be found here.

Within the over-65 age group, a high proportion of people are vaccinated (more than 70%).

But although the flu vaccine is provided free of charge to vulnerable people, many still don’t get it. Less than 30% of pregnant women and Indigenous people receive the flu vaccine. Only half of those with medical conditions that can lead to severe influenza get vaccinated.

 

Fit, healthy children can’t always fight off a flu. Chaikom/Flickr

Although not included in the government’s free flu vaccine program, children under the age of two years are also highly susceptible to flu.

Once infected with flu, young kids are more likely to be hospitalised with severe illness than those in the over 65 age group. About half of young children who die from the flu are otherwise healthy with no underlying medical conditions or known risk factors.

Most children who die from flu are not vaccinated. Therefore the idea that fit, healthy infants can simply “fight off” a flu infection without any problem is not always true.

Another benefit of preventing flu in children is that it reduces the spread of infections to other vulnerable family members such as grandparents.

What’s in store for us this winter?

The one predictable thing about flu, is that it is unpredictable! However, we often look to the northern hemipshere’s winter flu season to give some insights into what might be expected here.

The recent flu season in the United States and most of Europe was dominated by the A(H3N2) strain of flu. This virus has historically been associated with increased severity in the elderly.

There has been a lot of media coverage about bad vaccine match in the northern hemisphere. This is because most of the serious influenza was caused by the A(H3N2) viruses which had changed over the five to six months when the vaccine producers were manufacturing the vaccine. But the other components of the vaccine were well matched.

Our vaccine has been updated to protect Australians against the new A(H3N2) viruses.

So, if you or a loved one fall within the high-risk groups described above, getting the vaccine remains the most effective way to avoid the inconvenience and potentially severe health risks of the flu – and passing it on.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 Whether you agree with the advice or not, some no-nonsense words directed at teenagers have drawn the attention of parents and youth alike after going viral on Facebook.

The advice came courtesy of a principal named John Tapene, who was quoting a judge who regularly deals with youths.The judge was aiming to answer questions in the vein of, "What can I do and where can I go?"

The gist of his answer? Get out there and do something:

Story continues below

2012-08-14-Screenshot20120814at3.57.53PM.png
Responses to the clip include enthusiastic approval, with people saying they're going to print it out and post it on their refrigerator, as well as disproval, with others deeming it far too harsh and old-school authoritarian. (The latter could be the result of the line where the judge says stop being a cry baby and to develop a backbone instead of a wishbone.)

For those who are suggesting the advice is somewhat dated, there might be a good explanation: If the Pierce County Tribune is correct,then these words date back to 1959.

According to a 2010 post on the newspaper's website, staff members came across a clipping with a letter from Judge Phillip B. Gilliam of Denver, Colo., published on Dec. 17, 1959. The website seems to suggest that the letter originally appeared in the South Bend Tribune a few weeks earlier.

The full text of what may be the original letter can be found on  the Pierce County Tribune's website and it ends with different words than those presently circulating on the web -- ones that might cause more of a stir:

You're supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years. They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.

But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request.

In Heaven's name, grow up and go home!

 

 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012 23:48

Depression in Retirement

Written by

 

Depression in Retirement

There are many stresses in life that may lead to depression, and growing old can be a key one. One very important for those suffering from depression is to know that it is not normal, and rarely will they come through it without professional help.

In older people, one trigger for depression is difficulty in the transition from a productive working life to retirement. For others, the loss of a spouse can progress from grief to depression.

As we age we experience many disappointments: the death or illness of friends and family, loss of mobility, uncertain financial security, medical bills and so on. These events can lead to depression.

Most people can overcome these obstacles, but for others they may be more significant and, especially if they are compounded, they may seem insurmountable. While a 'sadness' may pass following an event, depression is very deep-seated, and can leave you feeling down, unable to make decisions, with a general feeling of malaise. It affects you both physically and mentally.

Clinical depression is a psychological problem that should not be ignored, but treated as soon as possible with counseling or psychotherapy.

While most older people are content with their lives, as many as three percent of over-65s experience clinical depression. On the bright side however, around 80 percent of them can be successfully treated with psychotherapy. For some medication gives excellent results.

There are several types of clinical depression:

1. Dysthmyia - a type of depression that may persist for a long time before diagnosis.

2. Reactive depression - which occurs after a major loss or in response to a serious life event.

3. Major depression - this serious form of the illness renders the sufferer almost incapable of carrying on everyday life. A person may experience this once in their life, or it may recur. Counseling and medication are often used in combination in this instance.

4. Bipolar - this often referred to as manic-depressive illness and manifests itself as severe mood swings, alternating from extreme highs to lows. Bipolar disorder usually first appears when a person is in their twenties but may not be diagnosed until as late as their fifties.

Some symptoms of depression

If you suspect the following symptoms of yourself or a loved one, you should consult a health professional with your concerns and request an evaluation.

· A persistent sad or anxious mood

· Loss of energy and Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities

· Sleeping and eating problems

· Uncharacteristic feeling of pessimism

· Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness or guilt

· Unpredictable and excessive crying

· Fractiousness and irritability

· Excessive grief that extends beyond three months

· Extremely 'low' periods followed by excessive 'highs'

· Racing thoughts and fat speech

· Decreased need for sleep

Getting help

The most difficult part of getting help for sufferers is the person themselves. People with depression often believe that it will go away in time, that they can manage it, or that they are too old to change. Others believe there is a stigma attached to having what is essentially a mental illness.

The truth is that it is highly treatable problem and dramatic improvements can be seen in a matter of weeks. Antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two are the usual methods of treatment, depending on the severity and nature of the illness.

Family doctors, clinics and family medical centers can provide diagnosis and treatment for depression, but a consultation with a psychologist should also form part of the treatment process.

Do remember that feeling depressed, especially in your retirement, is not normal and that any pessimistic or 'empty' feelings that persist for more than a few weeks should be investigated by a health professional.

By Kerry Finch

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1220969