Technology Revolution for the Evolution of the Quality of Elderly Care

Technology Revolution for the Evolution of the Quality of Elderly Care

The next 10 years are going to be exponentially revolutionary for the global community in different ways. Macros trends in internet access, driverless cars, cashless economies, shared services and better overall health care are just some of the trends that will change all our lives.

But what about the older generations?

Advertisers, investors, vendors and suppliers often chase younger generations or those still in the workforce who maybe a little older but still in the community. As a consequence it seems that global capital flows not only don’t pursue the elderly demographic but avoid it in favour of the younger consumer (that’s despite countries like Japan, Italy, Germany, and Australia and elsewhere facing increasingly ageing populations of over 65’s).

The World Health Organisation has a variety of studies on elderly populations and according to United Nations estimates, the number of older persons (60+) will double from the current 600 million to 1.2 billion by 2025, and again, to 2 billion by 2050.

In one of these studies, the focus of Ageing friendly Cities identified the following criteria to be an Ageing friendly City:

  • recognize the great diversity among older persons,
  • promote their inclusion and contribution in all areas of community life,
  • respect their decisions and lifestyle choices, and
  • anticipate and respond flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences.

Countries with the oldest populations in the world are listed below as per World Atlas:

Rank Country % of population over 65 years old
1 Japan 26.3 %
2 Italy 22.4 %
3 Greece 21.4 %
4 Germany 21.2 %
5 Portugal 20.8 %
6 Finland 20.5 %
7 Bulgaria 20.0 %
8 Sweden 19.9 %
9 Latvia 19.4 %
10 Malta 19.2 %

So with so many countries that have GDP’s per capita on the upper end of the world rankings, why is it where elderly votes are increasingly prevalent are the ageing so voiceless in advocating for quality of care treatment for themselves (or even their next generation) and why then does capital not flow both for investment and consumers in this over 65+ segment more freely not for social impact purposes which would be sound in its own right, but for purely return on investment (ROI) and financial economic incentive purposes?

That’s the state for the more developed countries. However, in developing systems to support the elderly from a sustainable long term community perspective, WHO shows that “long-term care needs to evolve in fundamental ways. In many low- and middle-income countries, formal longterm care services are essentially non-existent. The task of supporting care-dependent older people typically falls to female relatives, who are mostly untrained and unpaid for this work. In some high income countries, comprehensive public services are available, but sustainability is of great concern as populations age. In all settings, the nature and quality of care often fall short.”

So what is being done about it? Show me some examples…

Investment opportunities for business focused on the elderly include:

  • Aged care and retirement homes where these have typically been institutions operated in the shadows by governments, religious groups and NGOs. At times without scrutiny or proper processes where the resident effectively goes to die
  • Shared economy solutions for the elderly as a vulnerable immobile community is one thing. Home-care is a booming market opportunity. What it really is can better be perceived as concierge services for convenience and quality of life improvement for a consumer who just happens to be a little older
  • Technology devices that utilise IOT, remote sensing and other monitoring tools that can potentially catch patients or residents at risk far quicker and without human intervention in remote locations to allow support or emergency services to address issues before it becomes life or death. Furthermore, prevention utilising predictive data insights generated from Big Data or machine learning / AI driven tools create opportunities to adapt and adjust environments to limit falls or provide health care workers and carers first hand experience of what dementia maybe like?

Australia grown CarePage is another example of a Company who has taken the initiative to develop a true consumer experience for the elderly. Where business models exist for hotel services and ratings & reviews of quality of supply in that market around travel, www.carepage.com.au has proven these can be adapted (with key differences) for families and residents, or operators and health care workers alike, to assess the ranking and experience of aged care homes and retirement options thus starting to turn the tide of focus from the aged care operators not valuing the customer first (ie the resident) to recognising that they are ultimately still a service business and their consumer, the elderly resident (and their families) will influence and rate their quality of services and their customer experience.

There are many others. Most importantly, science and technology are enabling massive change. This is all very well. But let’s treat the elderly like the ‘global elders‘ that they are and elevate them onto the podium of social status, not forgot about them in the dark institutions and social services of constrained, de-humanised government subsidies.

A huge opportunity for a good cause…

More people need to focus on championing and celebrating the unlocked, apparently hidden value in the wisdom and memories and insights of the elderly community. They need to be championed for their wisdom today, and not just in memory when its too late. Recognising every grandparent as an asset, treating every vulnerable elderly community member as a valuable custodian of knowledge and asking ‘what can i learn from them’ is the easiest first step to start treating this important demographic like the global elders they are, and not a social liability and a truly forgotten global generation that they risk becoming as an unintended consequence of an evolving global technology revolution.

Thanks to HelloCare for the sourcing of data and reports.

What alcohol really does to your brain and body

What alcohol really does to your brain and body

There is no recreational drug more widely celebrated than alcohol. And many people enjoy it—it helps us become happier, less wound up, friendlier, and before long we’re drinking another and another. Alcohol does this by performing a number of things inside of your system.

When you take your first gulp of beer or shot of vodka, the ethanol travels down to your small intestine and stomach, where it slips into the bloodstream. While some ethanol gives you energy through the liver, the rest of it starts messing with your brain.

In the brain, the ethanol messes around with your neurotransmitters, or the tiny chemical signals that act as the control board for the brain. Here are just a few of the effects that can happen to you:

Numbing Pain

Alcohol has a way to make the pain go away. Not just emotionally, but physically away. It does this by muffling your sensory neurons, preventing them from sending pain signals to your brain. However, this doesn’t happen to everybody who drinks.

Reversing Your Core Temperature

You may feel that drinking a couple of beers makes you feel incredibly warm, but the truth is you’re actually more at risk of hypothermia when you have alcohol in your system.

Why? Your brain has a part called the hypothalamus, which performs a number of functions, including the regulation of your normal body temperature. Whenever you start to feel cold on the outside, it’s your hypothalamus that’s in charge of redirecting your blood from your skin to your organs, thus keeping your core temperature safe. This is why your skin will start to pale when you feel cold.

Alcohol disrupts your hypothalamus, meaning that this normal process can’t occur. Instead, alcohol reverses it, sending more blood to the skin, making you feel warmer than usual and leaving your organs exposed to the cold.

Relaxing Your Behavior

GABA and glutamate are two of the most crucial neurotransmitters in the brain. GABA is in charge of inhibiting electrical activity in the brain while glutamate stimulates it. When alcohol is introduced into your system, it disturbs this balance of glutamate and GABA, as it cancels out your usual glutamate while enhancing your GABA. This results in alcohol being a depressant, forcing you to let go of your usual anxieties and restraints and become more relaxed and friendly.

Making You Want More

The interesting thing about alcohol is that while it acts as a depressant in some ways, in other ways it also stimulates your brain to want more. It does this by upping your brain’s production of dopamine. Dopamine is your “feel good” chemical, which acts as a reward and motivator in your brain; it’s the chemical that is released when you eat good food, have great sex, or play an exciting video game. As alcohol triggers the release of dopamine in your brain, it makes you want to drink more, which is why it can become addicting.

More Sleep, Less Quality

Alcohol can make it both easier to sleep and harder to sleep. How so? Since alcohol has sedative effects as a depressant, it makes it easier for you to shut your eyes and pass out (as some alcoholics unwillingly do). The problem, however, is that your sleep will never be as good as it would have been during an alcohol-free night.

This is because alcohol interferes with the important phases during REM sleep. With a night of disturbed REM sleep, you will not wake up feeling as relaxed or as fresh. You will also not be able to store memories from the night before, as undisturbed REM sleep is crucial towards memory formation. This is why many people do not remember “the night before”.

Sex: Up and Down

Sex can be a mixed bag when it comes to alcohol. For some people, alcohol can make the experience better; for others, it can dampen it completely. Generally, women on alcohol experience a decrease in pleasure but a rise in sexual arousal. For men, both areas experience a reduction.

There is a study, however, that confirms the common idea that people are more willing to sleep around when they find themselves intoxicated, as alcohol makes you believe that people are more attractive than they actually are. It should be noted that this was a small study with a questionable sample.

Alcohol: On Drinking Safely

The effects listed above are there to provide a general idea of what alcohol can do to your body. The truth, however, is that all of these effects can change from one person to another, with smaller factors like the time of your last meal, your weight, and your genetics all playing a role in how alcohol affects you, and to what extent.

Either way, one thing’s for certain: Consistently overdrinking can be very damaging to your brain, heart, and body, increasing your risk of cancer. Over one out of every 20 deaths worldwide is related to drinking alcohol. Stay safe on your nights at the bar.

8 mind-blowing benefits of intermittent fasting that the food industry doesn’t want you to know

8 mind-blowing benefits of intermittent fasting that the food industry doesn’t want you to know

Intermittent fasting is a term used for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting.

For most people, this usually involves skipping breakfast each day and eating from around 12 pm to 8 pm, then fasting for 16 hours until they start eating again the next day at 12 pm.

Several studies have shown that intermittent fasting can have incredible effects on your body and brain.

Here are 8 science-based benefits:

1) Changes functions of cells, genes and hormones

Your body changes when you don’t eat for a while. For instance, your body begins to implement cellular repair processes and alters hormones to latch onto stored body fat.

Here are what studies have found regarding these changes:

– Human growth hormone: Growth hormone may increase by 5 times its normal amount. This helps burn fat and increase muscle gain.

–  Insulin levels: Insulin level drop, which fastens fat burning.

– Cellular repair: Cellular repair processes begins. This involves getting rid of waste from cells.

Bottom line: Fasting causes human growth hormone to increase and insulin levels to decrease. Cells begin repairing cells and alter the genes they express.

2) Lose weight and shred belly fat

For most people who intermittent fast, they generally eat fewer meals. By itself, this will mean you’re taking in few calories.

However, higher growth hormone, lower insulin levels and larger amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all facilitate better breakdown of body fat.

Studies have found that short-term fasting boosts metabolic rate by 3.6-14%.

A 2014 review of scientific literature found that intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks.

It was also found that people lost 4-7% of waist circumference, which means belly fat.

Bottom line: Intermittent fasting probably means you’ll eat few calories and you’ll also boost metabolism. Put together, that’s a pretty effective tool to lose weight.

3) It can reduce insulin resistance

Intermittent fasting has major benefits for insulin resistance and reduces blood sugar levels.

Studies show blood sugar levels reduced by 3-6% after fasting. This suggests that intermittent fasting may be protective for developing type 2 diabetes.

Bottom line: Intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance and lowers blood sugar levels, which may provide protection from type 2 diabetes.

4) Reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body

Studies show that fasting may increase the body’s resistance to oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress has been found to be one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases.

Studies also show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, which has been linked to many diseases.

Bottom line: Studies suggest that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. This would likely have benefits to aging and proection agaainst developing several diseases.

5) Improved heart health

Heart disease is one of the world’s biggest killers. There are several risk factors to heart disease, which intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce.

This includes lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, blood truglycerides, inflammation and blood sugar levels.

Bottom line: Intermittent fasting can improve many risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation and blood sugar levels.

6) May help prevent cancer

Cancer is a horrible disease that leads to uncontrolled growth of cells.

There is evidence from animal studies that suggest intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.

Fasting has benefits to metabolism which may lead to reduce risk of cancer.

There is also evidence of human cancer patients showing reduced side effects of chemotherapy because of fasting.

Bottom line: Animal studies suggest intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer. Evidence also suggests that it may benefit side effects of chemotherapy. 

7) Good for your brain

In general, what works for your body also works for your brain. Intermittent fasting improves several metabolic factors that are thought important for brain health.

This includes reduce inflammation, reduced blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and reduce oxidative stress.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a deficiency which has been linked to depression and other brain problems.

Bottom line: Intermittent fasting improves several metabolic factors that are thought important for brain health and increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

8) May extend your lifespan

Studies on rats show that intermittent fasting may extend lifespan. Some of the studies showed that rats that fasted lived 83% longer than rats that didn’t.

However, this hasn’t been proven in human studies. But given intermittent fasting benefits to metabolism and other factors, it makes sense that it could help you live longer.

Bottom line: Studies on rats show that intermittent fasting may extend lifespan.

5 myths about baby sleep and SIDS, debunked by an expert

5 myths about baby sleep and SIDS, debunked by an expert

Few things in life are as heartbreaking as the sudden death of an infant. The sudden, unexplained death of an infant, known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), leaves parents in shock and tormented by unanswerable questions. Did they do anything that could have caused their baby’s death? Could they have done anything to prevent the tragedy?

SIDS is poorly understood and the cause is still unknown. Doctors think it might be associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.

The Mayo clinic defines SIDS as the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old.

Part of what makes SIDS so terrifying is that it kills newborns who seem otherwise healthy. It does so without warning. And no one really knows how common it is.

Some measures have helped to reduce the numbers, but SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants between 1 month and 1 year of age.

The “Back to Sleep” public health campaign in the 1990s instructed mothers and other caregivers to place babies on their backs to sleep. This campaign is credited with cutting SIDS deaths in half, an astonishing decline, in just two decades. In 1993 nearly 4,700 U.S. infants died from SIDS.

Here’s the thing: it can happen to anyone, so it’s best inform yourself as best you can on the issue.

Because the exact cause of the sudden death of an otherwise healthy baby is unknown, doctors can only give advice on factors that might make an infant more vulnerable to the syndrome.

Debunking SIDS myths

As with anything that is ill-understood, SIDS has its own list of myths of do’s and don’ts that’s not always helpful. Here is well-known pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” in his article for CNN debunking some of the myths.

Myth 1: Baby must have silence to be able to sleep.

Not true. And the reason is so obvious that you can kick yourself for not realizing it yourself. As Dr. Karp points out, the womb is a noisy place: “…louder than a vacuum cleaner and running 24 hours a day.”  For nine months, the growing baby was lulled to sleep by the rhythmic whooshing of the blood flowing through the placenta. Silence is probably disconcerting to her.

The truth is, your baby will sleep best if you play loud, rumbly white noise during all naps and at night, says Dr. Karp.

Myth 2: Never wake your baby when she’s sleeping.

Nope. Dr. Karp advises parents to gently wake their baby from day one and leave them to drop off to sleep again. This will teach the baby to self-sooth. When putting the baby to bed, just tickle her neck or feet until her eyes drowsily open, she’ll soon drop off again. This the first step towards sleeping through the night, says the doctor.

Myth 3: Some babies don’t like to be swaddled because they want to feel free.

It’s more likely that the parent wants to feel free and can’t imagine that their baby doesn’t crave freedom too.

Babies don’t need freedom, they need the feeling of security they had in the womb, says Dr. Karp, and swaddling is the first step to calming a baby. A baby that’s not wrapped, will flail her arms and startle easily which doesn’t help her to drop off easily.

Myth 4: We should teach babies to sleep in their own rooms.

Just having your baby sleep with you in the same room can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, says Karp. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the parent’s room for at least six months (always on their back, in their own bed). Besides, it’s much more convenient for feedings and diaper changes remarks Dr. Karp.

Myth 5: Swaddling should be stopped after two months.

This advice was given by the pediatrics academy after a study found that swaddled babies who roll to the stomach have double the risk of SIDS compared to unwrapped babies. Dr, Karp points out that an eight-year review of data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found only 22 sudden unexplained infant deaths related to swaddling.

Since sudden unexplained infant death strikes one in 1,200 babies and thousands of babies were probably swaddled, swaddling may introduce a theoretical risk, but there is not a lot of proof it is causing an increase in sudden unexplained infant death, says Dr. Karp.

Two to four months after birth is the peak period for SIDS, so babies should still be swaddled during that time.

Study finds that people diagnosed with HIV have a longer life expectancy than non-infected people

Study finds that people diagnosed with HIV have a longer life expectancy than non-infected people

It may sound strange that a person inflicted with a deadly virus such as HIV can actually help them live longer.

Believe it or not, researchers from the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design study found that a person diagnosed with HIV at 20 years old or older and on antiretroviral therapy (ART) can expect to live longer than the average life expectancy.

The study found that someone aged 20 or older on ART in the U.S or Canada is now expected to live into their early 70s – a life expectancy that’s approaching that of the general population. However, the study also found that if a 20-year-old is a man, and starts HIV treatment early with a CD4 count at or above 350, they can expect to live an additional 69 years, or to approximately 89 years old, 10-12 years longer than the general population.

Dr. Gary Blick, Chief Medical Officer of World Health Clinicians and co-founder of HIV Equal, says this is clear evidence of the success of newer and improved HIV drugs:

“One of the main reasons for the increase in life expectancy above that of the general population has everything to do with knowing your HIV status…If you are diagnosed with HIV and get in and stay in care, you will get better monitoring and treatment than someone in the general population who might otherwise not seek medical attention. The only sobering fact is that large differences in life expectancy still continue to persist in certain patient sub-groups, such as between MSM and intravenous drug users or other HIV risk groups, as well as between Caucasians and all other races. We need to better understand the specific reasons for these life expectancy differences and improvements”.

How can this actually be?

Doctors say it’s mainly due to the incredible pharmacological advances that have been made in how the virus is treated and managed. “Highly active antiretroviral therapy” have resulted in being able to maintain the infected person’s immune system and therefore prevent the opportunistic infections that resulted in the development of AIDS and led to death. This medication usually involves taking 1-2 tablets a day.

Another reason for the increased life expectancy is that a person infected with HIV goes to the doctor to get their blood checked every 4 months, which can mean they’re more likely to catch other diseases that they wouldn’t have caught had they not seen a doctor.

According to Dr. Pemberton, the people who became dangerously unwell with the disease “are often immigrants who have been infected for years, and present to hospital late with the kind of infections that we no longer see in those on medication.”

This underscores the importance of catching HIV early and getting on treatment as soon as possible.

According to AIDS Map, transmission mostly occurs when people don’t know they have it. When HIV infected people are on medication, they become far less likely to transmit it to others.

While we still haven’t found a cure for HIV/AIDS, we shouldn’t ignore the miraculous advancement western medicine has made in treating people with the disease.

Dr. Pembertion says it best:

“HIV/Aids wards and specialist units have closed simply because there is no longer the volume of patients to fill them. This is a hugely encouraging fact, which would have seemed impossible to those who stood, in the 1980s and 1990s, as friends, family and loved ones faded away while doctors stood by utterly helpless. What is truly startling is the speed with which medicine responded to HIV.”

In a stunning first, surgeons remove mother’s uterus to operate on baby

In a stunning first, surgeons remove mother’s uterus to operate on baby

Lexi Royer and her unborn baby have made history even before they have met each other eye to eye.

When she was 24 weeks pregnant, the two of them were on an operating table each undergoing an operation: Royer’s womb was being removed so surgeons could operate on her unborn baby!

Isn’t that amazing?

The life-changing surgery was first reported by the New York Times.

Royer’s baby boy was diagnosed with a spina bifida, a condition where the spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

The doctors lifted the woman’s womb out of her body and operated on the tiny baby without removing him from the womb.

Spina bifida occurs when the vertebrae don’t form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. Spina bifida can be mild or severe.

In the severe form of spina bifida, children may have little or no feeling in their limbs, and there can be fluid build-up in the brain, which may cause seizures, learning problems or visions problems and leave them unable to control their bladder or bowels.

Dr Michael Belfort, chairman of obstetrics and gynaecology at Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr William Whitehead, a paediatric surgeon, injected the baby with anaesthetic before moving skin over his exposed spinal cord and stitching it into place.

Spina bifida occurs in the early stages of pregnancy, at three to four weeks, when the tissue that forms the spinal column doesn’t close properly.

In the United States 1,500 to 2,000 of the more than 4 million babies born in the country each year are affected by the condition and there are an estimated 166,000 individuals living with the condition in the United States.

The exact cause of spina bifida is not known, but scientists suspect multiple factors including insufficient folic acid in the mother’s diet.

Pioneering an astonishing new treatment

Doctors have been performing foetal surgery to repair spina bifida since the 1990s, but those operations are difficult and risk premature birth.

This new procedure has come a long way. It was developed over two years by Dr Belfort and his colleague Dr Whitehead. They practiced on sheep and a rubber ball with a doll inside wrapped in chicken skin to mimic the defect in spina bifida, reports The Telegraph.

The new procedure allows the doctors to drain the womb of amniotic fluid, which eats away at the gap in the spinal nerve tissue.

This is how it all unfolded.

During the three-hour-operation Dr Belfort opened Royer’s abdomen and removed her whole womb through the hole. He then made two slits in the womb, one for a fetoscope – a tiny camera designed to light up and film inside – and another for surgical tools.

Once the womb was outside her body doctors could drain it of amniotic fluid, light it up and operate through tiny incisions after injecting the fetus with anesthetic. The womb was filled with carbon dioxide to keep the baby floating in the womb and anesthetic helped to keep it still.

The doctors pulled skin over the exposed spinal cord and stitched it in place. They then refilled the womb with saltwater and replaced inside the mother’s body it.

The team is now reporting on their work in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology following 28 successful operations in which no fetuses have died, and only a few have needed shunts to drain fluid from the brain. Some of the mothers have also not needed caesarean sections.

Royer was initially offered an abortion when she was told about her baby’s condition but chose to take part in the experimental surgery instead.

“It sounded like we were looking at brain damage, feeding tubes, a breathing tube, a wheelchair, just a bad quality of life,” she told the New York Times.

“It’s not done by any means, but I definitely feel it’s the right thing for us. Seeing the ultrasound and how good he’s doing, moving his ankles and feet, it’s such a happy moment.

“I can’t imagine going on further in the pregnancy not knowing every day what damage is being done and if he’s getting worse. It’s such a relief to move forward.”

Royer’s baby is due in January.