For older adults, undergoing medical procedures usually includes some inherent risks, but there’s a little-known effect impacting a significant number of seniors after surgery that people need to be conscious of: POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction). POCD occurs in more than 25% of older adults during the days or possibly even weeks following non-cardiac surgery, and will present with an array of symptoms, a few of which may be almost indiscernible: forgetfulness, lack of concentration and focus, and other kinds of cognitive decline that impact quality of life.
Research points to the surgical treatment itself and also the associated stress, instead of anesthesia, as the culprit in POCD. According to Dr. Roderic Eckenhoff, vice chair for research and Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania professor of anesthesiology, “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 researched to determine the best way to prevent and/or effectively treat POCD: how exactly to best measure it, whether it plays a role in a continuum of brain disorders post-surgery or perhaps is a standalone condition, and how to differentiate it from typical brain functionality later in life. Scientists are currently attempting to more effectively gain an understanding of POCD, with a variety of scientific publications getting ready to publish the newest findings and developments at a future POCD conference.
While commonly a short-term condition, POCD is a risk factor that needs to be talked about with the doctor ahead of surgery for an older adult, especially if the senior has existing cognitive concerns. And for all seniors undergoing surgery, it is a good idea to try to avoid tasks which are cognitively demanding for 1 month following surgery.
Atlanta Home Care Partners is the optimal post-procedure partner to provide older adults the opportunity to rest and fully recover from surgery, offering personalized, quality home care assistance Atlanta families deserve to help avoid cognitive dysfunction. If the need is for assistance with household chores and meals during recovery, picking up medication refills and groceries, light housework and organization around the house, or assistance with personal care, safe ambulation and fall prevention, we’re readily available for as much or as little assistance as needed. Call us at (404) 228-0103 or contact us online for a free in-home assessment or to learn more about the best memory care in Georgia.