May 2, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 262 — Dementia, and student views of the future

Dementia currently affects about five million older adults in the United States, and that number is expected to more than double over the next 40 years. A study from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine shows that the symptoms suffered by people with advanced Alzheimer's disease and related dementias who live in the community occur at a strikingly similar rate to those of dementia patients in a nursing home. The study is one of the first to look at dementia symptom prevalence in the community population. Researchers took baseline survey data from a five-year randomized clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging and analyzed responses from caregivers regarding symptoms. The most common symptoms reported include pain, agitation, anxiety and resistance to care. Researchers found that both the rate and types of symptoms suffered by those with dementia in the community were very similar to those in a nursing home setting, says Kurt Kroenke, a Regenstrief research scientist and professor at IU School of Medicine. Kroenke, working closely with study leader Greg Sachs, a fellow Regenstrief research scientist and a professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine, found that more than 40 percent of community residents with dementia were experiencing such symptoms at least weekly, significantly affecting quality of life for both patients and caregivers. However, these symptoms often go unreported when the patient lives at home rather than in a nursing home. Researchers and clinicians are now attempting to address this issue with palliative care interventions. They are testing a collaborative care model using nurses and community health workers to help manage symptoms and provide caregivers with support.

In other news, young adults see the environment as a key term for understanding the future, according to a paper co-authored by Nathaniel Geiger, an assistant professor in the IU Media School. In 2019, Geiger and colleagues at the IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs used in-person paper surveys to ask nearly 200 IU students ages 18 to 26 to imagine and describe what they thought would be the best, most likely and worst possible futures that the United States could face in either the year 2050 or 2100. Researchers found that the students’ images of the future were heavily infused with concepts related to environmental sustainability, technology and social dynamics. Many participants expressed the belief that governance, technological developments and individuals were key factors that will determine the future realities. The researchers also found that waste, not climate change, was the most prominent environmental issue in the minds of the students’ they surveyed, and that government and technology were viewed as the most likely factors to shape the future. While the participants stated they were optimistic about the future, their actual depictions of the future were less optimistic. Geiger and his colleagues believe the images of the future they collected can help them to engage productively with young adults in addressing today’s pressing challenges.