alzheimer's care

Archive for Depression

Holidays Are Not A Time of Joy for Everyone

During pray

The holiday season is upon us, which can be the best of times and the worst of times.

It’s a time of the year, in fact, that can often be stressful and disappointing. For many, there can be feelings of sadness and depression, particularly for those who have lost loved ones.

While it’s a myth that suicide is more common around the holidays – statistics show that spring is actually the peak time – this can be a particularly difficult time for those prone to depression.

Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression.

Mental health professionals say that people who are lonely or have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at this time of year. Unfortunately, this can make things worse. Many see other people spending time with friends and family and ask themselves, “Why can’t that be me?” or “Why is everyone else so much happier?”

Holidays can be difficult because they often bring back memories of friends and family members who are gone. In addition, the disappointment over not being able to enjoy the holidays may add to one’s depression.

Mental health experts encourage people to follow these practical tips:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, work-related, religious or other social events that will offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others can be a good way to lift your spirits.
  3. Avoid conflict with family and friends. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Try to set aside any grievances.
  4. Stick to a budget. Don’t try to buy happiness by purchasing gifts you can’t afford.
  5. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, visiting friends and other activities.
  6. Learn to say “no.” Saying “yes” when you should say “no” can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and family will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
  7. Learn to grieve. If the holidays remind you of a loved one, it’s a good time to discuss your feelings or find help by joining a support group.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence will only add to your unhappiness. Make sure to eat properly, exercise, and get the proper amount of sleep.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. This may include listening to soothing music, getting a massage, or reading a book.

Depression at this time of year, or any time for that matter, should not be ignored. If these feelings last, it’s time to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Here are some tips for helping an elderly person with depression.

Music Therapy for the Elderly

Elderly woman with headphones listening to music.

Music Therapy Touches Hearts and Memories

Not long ago, a documentary clip went viral. It featured the story of Henry, an elderly man with dementia who sat locked inside himself day after day… until they placed headphones over his ears and let him hear the music he loved during his youth. Suddenly, everything changed.

One of the greatest challenges the elderly face is a lost sense of belonging, independence, freedom, and enjoyment. These unmet needs result in feelings of isolation, sadness, and loss. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, the inability to communicate this experience can be both complex and devastating.

Music therapy is a powerful tool in caregiving. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, music can trigger lost memories, promote communication and movement, manage anxiety, stimulate creativity, and renew identity. Simply stated, music has the power to reach across the barrier of time and functional limitations to evoke joy and vitality. Keep reading to learn how you can share this wonderful therapy with your elderly loved one.

Six Tips for Using Music Therapy to Help Your Elderly Loved One

Explore their music history. Old hymns, swing, and wartime songs are often favorites among the elderly; however, take care to avoid songs that bring up unpleasant memories. Because of the powerful associations music creates, it can sometimes return someone to an experience that was emotionally painful. Watch for signs of distress. If this occurs, stop the song immediately and move on to something else.

Compile a playlist. An iPod or other type of mp3 device can be a great way to amass a variety of songs that can be played easily through a small speaker or headphones. Playlists can be grouped by themes for specific moods and activities.

Make music accessible. When possible, allow the person access to the player as a source of comfort when needed. As always, use good judgment to avoid any risk of the person becoming entangled in the cords. If mobility or confusion is an issue, close supervision may be necessary.

Play music during exercise. Listening to music while walking may help improve gait, and it can encourage interest in other types of exercise.

Create an ambiance. Using background music during the general day-to-day can enhance mood. Make a special playlist of calming music to reduce sundowning, anxiety, or problems with behavior.

Encourage drumming and sing-alongs. Music can promote a sense of emotional connection. Use facial expression to engage and communicate with the person through the sound of the music.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for more information about using music therapy with the elderly. If you’d like more ideas on how to improve an elderly person’s quality of life, check out our post on pet therapy.

Pet Therapy for the Elderly

Happy Senior Man With His Dog

A therapy pet can be a powerful member of the caregiver team. It has been well established that pets can lower the risk of heart attack and increase survival rates in those who have suffered heart attack, but research shows there are many more additional benefits.

When humans interact with animals, there is a resulting increase in the production of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin – the “good” hormones responsible for improving mood. Further, levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are decreased.

These hormonal changes result in a sense of well-being which helps improve depression, agitation, social interaction, engagement, and even nutritional intake.

Taking walks with a dog tends to motivate seniors to walk farther, thereby increasing their level of physical activity. In situations where mobility is reduced, talking to or petting an animal can still lower heart rate, improve vital signs, and has been shown to reduce the need for medication.

If you are considering pet therapy for yourself or an elderly loved one, here are some tips that may help:

Make the decision together. Situations vary and people age differently. Full pet ownership may not be suitable for every situation, and the right pet should be paired with the right person. A decision to get a pet should not be forced on the elderly person. For some, pet ownership may not be the answer. The services of a professional therapy pet may be a better choice.

Does the person have disabilities? In some cases, dogs may not be a good fit for someone with major physical limitations. Indoor pets that need less care, such as cats or birds may be a better fit. In cases of significant impairments, your loved one may be a candidate for a service animal to aid in functioning.

Age, Size, and Temperament. When matching a pet to an elderly person, it is important to consider the animal’s unique temperament, care and grooming needs, training, physical size, and remaining life expectancy. A young puppy or kitten may require too much training and lack the maturity to be a suitable companion. While much older pets may have more health problems that could result in expensive veterinary bills and medications. A plan should be in place to determine who will care for the animal if it outlives its owner.

Financial Considerations. Some pets are more expensive than others to maintain. Consider the costs involved for each type of pet, not just for initial cost, but also ongoing care and maintenance. Adopting a pet from your local shelter may be a more affordable choice. Shelter workers or foster owners often become very familiar with each animal’s personality and may be able to assist in making a good match. Additionally, some shelters offer discounts to seniors. For instance, Idaho Humane Society offers a discount to people over the age of 60.

Pet Sharing. If acquiring a full time pet for your loved one is too impractical, consider “borrowing” someone else’s pet. Do you or a close friend have a dog or other pet that is well socialized and up for a house call? Consider bringing the pet for regular visits with your elderly loved one. Recent studies have even shown that watching cat videos online can boost energy and reduce sadness and anxiety.

Click here to download the PDF, Tips for Caregivers: Deciding if Pet Therapy is Right for Your Loved One. For more information, including research about pets and seniors, visit Pets for the Elderly

Sundowner’s Syndrome Symptoms

Boise Home Health Care

Lady showing concern of elderly person with sundowning

Sundowner’s syndrome, most commonly called sundowning, affects some twenty percent of people who have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. People with dementia who “sundown” get confused and agitated as the sun goes down — and sometimes through the night.

Sundowning may prevent people with dementia from sleeping well. It may also make them more likely to wander. Due to the stress it puts on caregivers, sundowning is one of the leading causes of caregiver burnout.  As a caregiver for someone dealing with sundowning, it is important to know the symptoms to help understand what you are going to be contending with. Read More

Spotting the Warning Signs of Depression

Boise Home Health Care

man depressed

Everyone feels blue now and then. It’s part of life. But if you no longer enjoy activities that you usually like, you may have a more serious problem. Being depressed without letup can change the way you think and feel. This is called “clinical depression.”

Being “down in the dumps” over a period of time is not a normal part of getting older. But it is a common problem, and medical help may be needed. For most people, depression will get better with treatment. “Talk” therapy, medicine, or other treatment methods can ease the pain of depression. You do not need to suffer.

There is a similarity between the symptoms of depression and dementia but the two are completely different.  Sometimes the signs of depression can mask themselves and appear as if it’s dementia. Knowing the signs can help differentiate the two. Read More

Caregiver Tips for the Holidays

caregiving for the holidaysThe holiday season is typically thought of as a time of merriment, festivities, and visiting with family and friends. For older adults, however, the holidays can present some very unique challenges. For example, crowded family gatherings might be overwhelming, particularly for those with dementia. As a caregiver, you have more to think about than just yourself. Taking time to plan ahead can ease the stress and help make things a lot smoother and easier. Read More

How You Can Help an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

caregiver-stress-300x198Many Alzheimer’s caregivers are deeply dedicated and feel like they can handle anything. Usually they are often so burned out they can’t even imagine how anyone could assist them. In addition, they may be reluctant to ask for help because they don’t want to impose and because they’re afraid people will refuse to help.  Reaching out will help avoid getting burned out. We have put together some information on how to get the assistance the caregiver needs. Read More

Mood changes — a warning sign that care may be needed series

Dramatic mood changes can be a sign of mental decline. Sometimes depression can mask as dementia.  Swinging from anger to tears is a possible sign of early Alzheimer’s. Other things to watch for are forgetfulness and withdrawal from friends. Loneliness can also be a factor in elder mood changes. If that is the reason, find activities to help ease the loneliness.

See other warning signs that care may be needed. Download our printable checklist to see if care might be needed. Read More

Suicide Threatens Every Age

As people age, they sometimes become more prone to depression. It is important not to overlook symptoms of depression, which include losing interest in hobbies, withdrawal from relationships, and thoughts or verbal comments about committing suicide.

Suicide is a potential threat for people of all ages. While studies estimate 22 vets commit suicide per day, some show that the average age of Vets who commit suicide are 60 years old.

It isn’t just vets, for the most pronounced increases in a recent study show that suicide rates increased by 50-percent for men in their fifties. Read More