Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jan-Feb 2017 Contents Bid to recognise Sarcopenia
THE UNIVERSITY of Melbourne is leading a push for Australia to recognise
Sarcopenia, a muscle-wasting disease that affects 1 in 3 seniors globally.
Leading expert and director of the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal
Science (AIMSS) Professor Gustavo Duque, says while it is common
knowledge people lose muscle mass as they age, doctors don’t know how
much is normal, and are often ignorant of the condition.
“Sarcopenia is to muscles what osteoporosis is to bones, yet our knowledge
of the condition is where osteoporosis was in the 1950s,” says Duque.
Sarcopenia leads to a higher risk of fractures and falls, and is associated with
diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney failure, heart failure, vitamin D deficiency, and
in men, loss of testosterone, he says.
Current research is focusing on exercise, protein supplements and
Vitamin D and Duque is leading clinical trials into anti-myostatin antibodies.
Myostatins are proteins that curb muscle growth.
“It’s only in recent years that we know that muscle mass is not necessarily
correlated with strength or performance, and this is a critical insight as we look
for drugs to treat this condition,” he says.
AIMSS recently held Australia’s first conference on the condition in
conjunction with the University of Melbourne, Victoria University and
Duque is a member of an international consortium working on clinical
guidelines and diagnostic criteria. Their efforts led to Sarcopenia being
allocated a World Health Organisation international classification code and in
Australia will require a new code in the equivalent Australian classification.
“Sarcopenia really is a disease with an identity crisis, but we are working to
change that over the next few months,” Duque says.
Tool tackles sex taboos
Sex remains important for many people
living in aged care but can present a
challenge for staff and residents’ family
members, says Michael Bauer, a senior
research fellow at the Australian Centre for
Evidence Based Aged Care, who helped
develop a new resource to assist.
Extensive research and consultation
informed the development of the new guide,
Sexuality and people in residential aged care
facilities: A guide for partners and families.
“Sexuality is linked to wellbeing and quality
of life and the need for affection, looking and
feeling attractive, as well as intimacy, and sex
can remain important for many people living in
aged care facilities,” says Bauer.
“Growing old is not a limitation on the
expression of sexuality or sexual desire and
the above needs do not necessarily change
because someone has dementia.”
But residents’ sexuality can often be a
challenge for aged care facilities and staff as
well as residents’ family members who may
find it an awkward and difficult topic to openly
discuss, Bauer says.
“It can come as a surprise to some family
and staff members alike, to learn that a
resident still has sexual needs and this can
evoke a range of responses from acceptance
through to disbelief, or even disgust.
“Children can find it difficult to understand
and accept that their parent living in an
aged care facility still has sexual desires and
furthermore wants to fulfil them, particularly if
they have dementia.”
It can be equally upsetting for families and
partners to learn that their loved one wants
to spend time with someone else living in the
facility, Bauer says.
“Families may struggle to understand and
make sense of what is happening and why,
particularly if the person is unable to verbally
express their needs.
The new guide aims to assist family
members and partners of people living in
aged care facilities understand about sexuality,
including for people living with dementia.
Issues covered include the importance of
sexuality in old age; sexuality and living in an
aged care facility; sexuality and dementia and
sexual behaviours and their impact.
The guide can also be a useful resource for
facility staff who need information on this topic.
Initially developed in English this resource is
soon to be translated into other languages.
Access the guide: latrobe.edu.au/aipca/
australianageingagenda.com.au | 49
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