For Older Adults, Oral Health Is Not Just About a Pretty Smile

It’s hard to eat when your teeth hurt or are missing, and that’s a big concern for Indiana AAAs. Last year, AAAs served more than 2.1 million meals to 25,422 older adults and persons with disabilities. It doesn’t do a AAA any good to serve a meal that someone can’t properly eat, and the resulting malnutrition can have serious consequences.

Infections resulting from poor oral health may lead to increased hospital use and comorbidities such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and diabetes. It’s a real problem, as this story from a case manager at Area Five Agency on Aging and Community Services exemplifies. An elderly client, blind due to insulin dependent diabetes, was unable to eat 50% of the contents of the meals he received. His teeth were rotten up into the gums, broken off in other places, and sensitive to hot and cold. It was painful to chew and his mouth always hurt. The case manager was able to get his teeth pulled and have him fitted for dentures. He is no longer in pain and now eats what he wants, which is important for an insulin dependent diabetic.

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Opioids and Older Adults

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about the national crisis in opioid addiction, overdose and treatment. What kind of person do you picture when you hear about someone addicted to opioids? How old do you imagine them to be? What do they do for a living? How much money do they make? Where do they live?

Odds are you didn’t picture an older adult.

But in Indiana, nearly 7,000 Medicare recipients are estimated to have an opioid use disorder. That’s more than 0.6% of Indiana’s total 1.15 million Medicare beneficiaries in 2015.

And in 2014, adults aged 55 and older represented 18.6% of Indiana’s 1,150 drug overdose deaths.

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