HIV and Older People

World AIDS Day is dedicated to fighting stigma and discrimination, and raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We mark this day by, in turn, raising awareness of older people with HIV.

Incidence and prevalence of HIV in older people is increasing. In the UK one in five adults with HIV is aged over 50. This is a consequence both of the expansion in uptake of HIV testing and diagnosis and major improvements in treatments which are helping people with HIV to live longer.

The fact that older people with HIV are living longer where there is access to treatment is a cause for celebration but it also brings challenges for geriatric medicine. Older people with HIV commonly experience co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and dementia. Medical management of HIV in older people requires considerations of complex drug interactions and co-morbidities.

Early diagnosis of HIV is key to improving prognosis. Treatment with highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) significantly prolongs life expectancy, however it is associated with an increased risk of side effects in older patients. Continue reading

Fitter individuals are at the highest risk of death associated with delirium

Melanie Dani is a trainee in geriatric medicine in the North West Thames deanery. She is also completing a PhD at Imperial College London studying biomarkers in Alzheimer’s Disease, and has an interest in cognition and dementia.

It is well-recognised that delirium is associated with increased mortality. It’s less clear, though, whether this is the case across the spectrum of frailty. There is an idea that delirium might have bimodal outcomes – worse in frailer people, but may be protective in fitter individuals by highlighting an underlying problem early and (potentially) prompting earlier treatment.

While past studies have accounted for chronic diseases and acute illness severity, few have accounted for both. We wanted to see whether the associations of delirium with mortality remained so even after accounting for acute and chronic health factors, so we modelled both these together in a frailty index. This included 31 variables encompassing chronic disease, acute illness parameters, and functional status and was applied in a large cohort of acute medical older inpatients. Continue reading

Older people are living longer than before, but are they living healthier?

Ruby Yu is a research assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), specialising in gerontology and geriatrics. She is also a research fellow at the CUHK Jockey Club Institute of Ageing. Her recent paper Trajectories of frailty among Chinese older people in Hong Kong between 2001 and 2012: An Age-period-cohort Analysis was published today in Age and Ageing journal.

There is no doubt that people from countries all over of the world are living longer, but there is little evidence to suggest that older people today are living healthier than their predecessors did at the same age. This is a major cause of concern for many governments around the world because if the added years of people today are dominated by chronic diseases and functional disabilities, there will be negative implications (e.g., extended treatment for older people which increases the health and social care cost to society). Continue reading

Silent compression fractures: a missed opportunity

Agnes Jonsson is a graduate of University College Dublin in 2013 and is currently working as a Registrar in Orthogeriatrics in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. Her areas of interest are dementia care and quality improvement. She wrote this blog with input from Dr. Yasser Aljabi, Orthopaedic Registrar. Together they are working to create a pathway of care for vertebral fractures in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Osteoporotic fragility fractures have an estimated annual cost of 2 billion pounds in the UK. This includes the cost of acute hospital stay, rehabilitation and social care. Only a very small proportion of the cost is invested in pharmacological management and secondary prevention of osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends treatment with antiresorptive agents for patients with confirmed osteoporosis on DXA and for patients with neck of femur or vertebral fractures. Vertebral compression fractures have recently started to attract increasing amounts of attention, similar to that shown for hip fractures years ago prior to the implementation of hip fracture pathways of care. Continue reading

Autumn Speaker Series: Exercise during periods of decompensation. What is the current evidence?

Stephen Lim is a Clinical Research Fellow and a Specialist Registrar in Geriatric Medicine in Academic Geriatric Medicine at the University of Southampton. His research interest is in physical activity and deconditioning in hospital. He will be speaking at the upcoming BGS Autumn Meeting in London. He tweets at @StephenERLim

Hospital-associated deconditioning is high on the agenda across hospitals in the UK and many hospital trusts have jumped on the ‘endPJparalysis’ bandwagon to encourage patients to get up and get moving, – and rightly so! It is encouraging to see that healthcare professionals and non-clinical staff members are increasingly aware that prolonged bedrest and immobility is bad medicine.

During an acute illness, older people are at risk of worsening sarcopenia and consequently a decline in physical function. The hospital environment, altered mental state, physiological stresses and poor nutrition (as a sequelae of the acute illness), are some of the important risk factors contributing to a loss of function. Continue reading

Smoking linked to frailty in older adults

A recent paper published in Age & Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, finds that current smoking in older people increases the risk of developing frailty, though former smokers did not appear to be at higher risk.

Smoking increases the risk of developing a number of diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, all of which can potentially have negative effects on people’s physical, psychological and social health.

Frailty is considered a precursor to, but a distinct state from, disability. Frailty is a condition associated with decreased physiological reserve and increased vulnerability to adverse health outcomes. The outcomes include falls, fractures, disability, hospitalisation and institutionalisation. Continue reading

The frailty journey so far: where are we heading?

Professor Martin Vernon qualified in 1988 in Manchester. Following training in the North West he moved to East London to train in Geriatric Medicine where he also acquired an MA in Medical Ethics and Law from King’s College. In 2016 Martin was appointed National Clinical Director for Older People and Person Centred Integrated Care at NHS England. Here he discusses the 3rd National Frailty Conference which will be held on 28 September 2017 in Leeds. He tweets @runnermandoc 

The 19th Century term ‘watershed’ refers to a ridge of high ground separating bodies of water flowing in different directions. With this in mind I believe the 3rd National Frailty Conference in Leeds this year truly does mark a watershed moment. It will provide a valuable and timely opportunity both to reflect and add clarity to the new direction of travel we are taking with routine frailty identification and intervention for older people on a national scale. Make no mistake: bringing frailty into the mainstream is game changing.

Over the last year I have been continually impressed by the enthusiasm, ingenuity and commitment around the country focused on improving care and outcomes for our expanding and ageing population.  As a health and care system collectively we have much to celebrate from the hard work already done. Continue reading

Why I’m Fine with “Frailty”

Professor David Oliver is a Past President of the BGS, clinical vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, and a consultant in geriatrics and acute general medicine at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. Here he responds to Steve Parry’s recent BGS blog, The Frailty Industry: Too Much Too Soon? He tweets @mancunianmedic

Dr Steve Parry’s recent blog here, “The Frailty Industry. Too much too soon” certainly generated a great deal of hits and online responses. He is a well-respected geriatrician, has done sterling work for our speciality and we are friends in a speciality where solidarity and mutual respect are wonderfully the norm.

The more I reflect, the more I realise that none involved in the debate are a million miles apart in any case. We have all devoted our professional lives to the skilled multidisciplinary care of older people, especially those with the most complex needs; to the speciality of geriatric medicine; to the leadership of local services; to the education of the next generation of geriatricians and to developing the evidence base for practice.  Continue reading

If frailty is viewed by some as a “commissioning Trojan Horse” this should be admitted

Dr Shibley Rahman is currently an academic physician in dementia and frailty. His contribution on the diagnosis of behavioural frontal frontotemporal dementia, published while he was a M.B./Ph.D. student at Cambridge in 1999, is considered widely to be an important contribution to the field, even cited in the Oxford Textbook of Medicine. Here he responds to Steve Parry’s recent BGS blog, The Frailty Industry: Too Much Too Soon?  He tweets at @dr_shibley.

In response to Steve Parry’s recent BGS blog, The Frailty Industry: Too Much Too Soon?, I would simply in this article like to set out some of the strengths and weaknesses in the conceptualisation of frailty, with some pointers about “where now?

There is, actually, no international consensus definition of frailty (although there is one of a related term “cognitive frailty”).

In a world of fierce competition for commissioning, and equally intense political lobbying in health and social care, the danger is that a poorly formulated notion becomes merely a “Trojan Horse” for commissioning.

I must humbly depart from the views of some colleagues – for me, frailty is not just a word. I could likewise point to other single words which cause gross offence, which are unrepeatable in my blogpost here. Continue reading

The Frailty Industry: Too Much Too Soon?

Steve Parry works in acute medicine and older people’s medicine. He has a special interest in investigation and treatment of falls and blackouts in adult patients of all ages. He is BGS Vice President – Academic and Research.

Fashions come and go, in clothing, news and even movie genres. Medicine, including geriatric medicine, is no exception. When I was a trainee, falls and syncope was the next big thing, pursued with huge enthusiasm by a few who became the many. But when does a well-meaning medical fashion become a potentially destructive fad? Frailty, quite rightly, has developed from something geriatricians and allied professionals always did to become a buzz word even neurosurgeons bandy about. No bad thing for all professionals who see older people to have awareness of the recognition and management of this vulnerable and resource intensive patient group. Continue reading