Did You Know There Could Be a Link Between Surgery and Cognitive Decline in Seniors?

senior-female-in-hospital-bedUndergoing a medical procedure for older adults always involves some inherent risks, but there is a little-known effect impacting a substantial number of seniors following medical procedures that we all should be informed about: POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction). POCD occurs in more than 25% of seniors in the days or possibly even weeks immediately after non-cardiac surgery, and can present with a number of symptoms, several that could be almost indiscernible: forgetfulness, loss in concentration and focus, as well as other forms of cognitive decline that affect standard of living.

Research points towards the surgical procedure itself and also the associated stress, as opposed to anesthesia, as the culprit in POCD. Dr. Roderic Eckenhoff, vice chair for research and Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania professor of anesthesiology, says, “Most surgery causes peripheral inflammation. In young people, the brain remains largely isolated from that inflammation, but with older people, our blood-brain barrier becomes kind of leaky. That contributes to neuroinflammation, which activates a whole cascade of events in the brain that can accelerate the ongoing aging process.”

There are still many unknowns to be investigated to find out how to prevent and/or effectively treat POCD: how to successfully evaluate it, whether it results in a continuum of brain disorders post-surgery or perhaps is a standalone condition, and exactly how to tell it apart from typical brain functionality later in life. Scientists are currently attempting to better comprehend POCD, with a variety of scientific publications getting ready to publish the most recent conclusions and developments at a future POCD conference.

While commonly a short-term condition, POCD is a risk factor which should be discussed with the doctor just before surgery for an older adult, especially if the senior has existing cognitive decline. And for all seniors undergoing surgery, it is a wise idea to refrain from activities that are cognitively demanding for 30 days post-surgery.

JFS Care, top providers of the Jewish senior services Los Angeles families trust and a full range of customized Los Angeles CA home care services, is the ideal post-procedure partner to allow older adults the opportunity to rest and fully recover from surgery, offering personalized, in-home help with a multitude of tasks. Whether the need is for assistance with household chores and meals during recovery, picking up medication refills and groceries, light housework and organization around the home, or help with personal care, safe ambulation and fall prevention, we’re readily available for as much or as little assistance as required. Call us at (213) 383-2273 to find out more and to arrange a free in-home assessment to determine how exactly we can most effectively help your senior loved one.