Undergoing surgery for older adults always involves some inherent risks, but there’s a little-known effect impacting a substantial number of seniors after surgery that we all should be informed about: POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction). POCD occurs in more than 25% of seniors in the days and sometimes even weeks after non-cardiac surgery, and can present with an array of symptoms, several of which are often almost indiscernible: forgetfulness, lack of concentration and focus, as well as other forms of cognitive decline that impact quality of life.
Research points towards the surgical treatment itself in addition to 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 investigated to figure out how to prevent and/or effectively treat POCD: how to best evaluate it, whether or not it contributes to a continuum of brain disorders post-surgery or perhaps is a standalone condition, and exactly how to tell it apart from standard cognitive functionality later in life. Scientists are currently working to more effectively comprehend POCD, with a number of scientific journals getting ready to publish the most recent findings and developments at a future POCD summit.
While usually a short-term condition, POCD is a risk which should be discussed 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 can be cognitively stressful for thirty days post-surgery.
Generations at Home, providing St. Petersburg, FL senior care, is the perfect post-procedure partner to allow seniors the opportunity to rest and fully recover from surgery, offering personalized, in-home assistance with a multitude of tasks. Whether the need is for assistance with household chores and meals during recovery, picking up prescription refills and groceries, light housework and organization around the house, or assistance with personal care, safe ambulation and fall prevention, we’re available for as much or as little care as needed. Call us at 727-940-3414 or contact us online to learn more and to schedule a free in-home assessment to ascertain how we can most effectively help your senior loved one.