Geriatrics update 2018: Challenges in mental health, mobility, and postdischarge care

Author and Disclosure Information

Release date: December 1, 2018
Expiration date: November 30, 2019
Estimated time of completion: 1 hour

Click here to start this CME activity.

Click here to complete post-test and CME certificate.


A review of articles on geriatric topics from 2017 and 2018 revealed evidence supporting exercise for the elderly, early mobility for hospitalized patients, and oral anticoagulant therapy for atrial fibrillation to support cognitive function, and evidence against antipsychotic drugs for dementia-associated behaviors. No silver bullet was found for Alzheimer prevention or therapy.


  • Oral anticoagulant treatment for atrial fibrillation helps preserve cognitive function.
  • Antipsychotics are not recommended as initial therapy for dementia-associated behavioral disturbances or for hospitalization-induced delirium.
  • A multicomponent inpatient program can help prevent postoperative delirium in hospitalized patients.
  • The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends exercise to prevent falls.
  • Early mobility should be encouraged for hospitalized patients.
  • Better continuity of care between hospitals and skilled nursing facilities can reduce hospital readmission rates.



Unfortunately, recent research has not unveiled a breakthrough for preventing or treating cognitive impairment or Alzheimer disease. But several studies from the last 2 years are helping to drive the field of geriatrics forward, providing evidence of what does and does not help a variety of issues specific to the elderly.

Based on a search of the 2017 and 2018 literature, this article presents new evidence on preventing and treating cognitive impairment, managing dementia-associated behavioral disturbances and delirium, preventing falls, and improving inpatient mobility and posthospital care transitions.


With the exception of oral anticoagulation treatment for atrial fibrillation, there is little evidence that pharmacologic or nonpharmacologic interventions slow the onset or progression of Alzheimer disease.

Nonpharmacologic interventions

Home occupational therapy. A 2-year home-based occupational therapy intervention1 showed no evidence of slowing functional decline in patients with Alzheimer disease. The randomized controlled trial involving 180 participants consisted of monthly sessions of an intensive, well-established collaborative-care management model that included fall prevention and other safety strategies, personalized training in activities of daily living, exercise, and education. Outcome measures for activities of daily living did not differ significantly between the treatment and control groups.1

Physical activity. Whether physical activity interventions slow cognitive decline and prevent dementia in cognitively intact adults was examined in a systematic review of 32 trials.2 Most of the trials followed patients for 6 months; a few stretched for 1 or 2 years.

Evidence was insufficient to prove cognitive benefit for short-term, single-component or multicomponent physical activity interventions. However, a multidomain physical activity intervention that also included dietary modifications and cognitive training did show a delay in cognitive decline, but only “low-strength” evidence.2

Nutritional supplements. The antioxidants vitamin E and selenium were studied for their possible cognitive benefit in the double-blind randomized Prevention of Alzheimer Disease by Vitamin E and Selenium trial3 in 3,786 asymptomatic men ages 60 and older. Neither supplement was found to prevent dementia over a 7-year follow-up period.

A review of 38 trials4 evaluated the effects on cognition of omega-3 fatty acids, soy, ginkgo biloba, B vitamins, vitamin D plus calcium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and multi-ingredient supplements. It found insufficient evidence to recommend any over-the-counter supplement for cognitive protection in adults with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment.

Pharmacologic treatments

Testosterone supplementation. The Testosterone Trials tested the effects of testosterone gel vs placebo for 1 year on 493 men over age 65 with low testosterone (< 275 ng/mL) and with subjective memory complaints and objective memory performance deficits. Treatment was not associated with improved memory or other cognitive functions compared with placebo.5

Antiamyloid drugs. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in nearly 2,000 patients evaluated verubecestat, an oral beta-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme-1 inhibitor that reduces the amyloid-beta level in cerebrospinal fluid.6

Verubecestat did not reduce cognitive or functional decline in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer disease, while adverse events including rashes, falls, injuries, sleep disturbances, suicidal ideation, weight loss, and hair color change were more common in the treatment groups. The trial was terminated early because of futility at 50 months.

And in a placebo-controlled trial of solanezumab, a monoclonal antibody directed against the amyloid beta peptide, no benefit was demonstrated at 80 weeks in more than 2,000 patients with Alzheimer disease.7

Multiple common agents. A well-conducted systematic review8 of 51 trials of at least a 6-month duration did not support the use of antihypertensive agents, diabetes medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, hormones, or lipid-lowering drugs for cognitive protection for people with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment.

However, some studies found reassuring evidence that standard therapies for other conditions do not worsen cognitive decline and are protective for atrial fibrillation.8

Proton-pump inhibitors. Concern exists for a potential link between dementia risk and proton-pump inhibitors, which are widely used to treat acid-related gastrointestinal disorders.9

A prospective population-based cohort study10 of nearly 3,500 people ages 65 and older without baseline dementia screened participants for dementia every 2 years over a mean period of 7.5 years and provided further evaluation for those who screened positive. Use of proton-pump inhibitors was not found to be associated with dementia risk, even with high cumulative exposure.

Results from this study do not support avoiding proton-pump inhibitors out of concern for dementia risk, although long-term use is associated with other safety concerns.

Oral anticoagulation. The increased risk of dementia with atrial fibrillation is well documented.11

A retrospective study12 based on a Swedish health registry and using more than 444,000 patients covering more than 1.5 million years at risk found that oral anticoagulant treatment at baseline conferred a 29% lower risk of dementia in an intention-to-treat analysis and a 48% lower risk in on-treatment analysis compared with no oral anticoagulation therapy. No difference was found between new oral anticoagulants and warfarin.

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation is not associated with cognitive decline

For patients with severe aortic stenosis who are not surgical candidates, transcatheter aortic valve implantation is superior to standard medical therapy,13 but there are concerns of neurologic and cognitive changes after the procedure.14 A meta-analysis of 18 studies assessing cognitive performance in more than 1,000 patients (average age ≥ 80) after undergoing the procedure for severe aortic stenosis found no significant cognitive performance changes from baseline perioperatively or 3 or 6 months later.15

Next Article:

Acute necrotizing esophagitis

Related Articles