Important News About Surgery and Cognitive Decline in Seniors

Senior woman in hospital bed.
While typically a temporary condition, POCD is a risk that ought to be discussed with the physician ahead of surgery for an older adult

Cognitive decline in seniors is a concern on the minds of many families today, but could surgery be part of that concern? Experiencing a medical procedure for older adults always includes some inherent risks, but there’s a little-known effect impacting a substantial number of seniors after surgery that people all have to be conscious of: POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction). POCD takes place in more than 25% of seniors during the days following, or possibly, weeks just after non-cardiac surgery, and will present with a wide range of symptoms, some that can easily be almost indiscernible: forgetfulness, loss in concentration and focus, along with other types of cognitive decline that impact quality of life.

Research points towards the surgical procedure itself as well as the associated stress, as opposed to anesthesia, as the culprit in POCD. Per 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 for researchers to figure out exactly how to prevent and/or effectively treat POCD: how to best evaluate it, whether it plays a role in a continuum of brain disorders post-surgery or is a separate issue, and exactly how to differentiate it from standard brain functionality later in life. Scientists are currently working to more effectively comprehend POCD, with a variety of scientific publications getting ready to release the latest discoveries and developments at a future POCD conference.

While typically a temporary condition, POCD is a risk that ought to be discussed with the physician ahead of surgery for an older adult, especially if the senior has existing cognitive concerns. And for all seniors undergoing surgery, it’s best to refrain from tasks that are cognitively demanding for 1 month following surgery.

Heaven at Home Senior Care is the optimal post-procedure partner to permit seniors the opportunity to rest and fully recover from surgery, providing personalized, in-home assistance with a multitude of tasks. If the need is for help with household chores and meals during recovery, picking up prescription refills and groceries, light housework and organization around the home, or assistance with personal care, safe ambulation and fall prevention, we’re available for as much or as little care as required. Contact our Dallas home care professionals  online or at 866-381-0500 for more information or to arrange a free in-home assessment to determine how we can best assist your senior loved one.