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Depression among the elderly has been found to increase risks of dementia, as well as sometimes also constituting an early stage symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

Depression in the elderly

In fact, a study from the American Medical Association (AMA) published in May 2012 revealed a positive correlation between symptoms of depression manifested during midlife or late life and higher risks of developing dementia.  
Although often overlooked because associated with getting older, depression is a serious symptom that ought to be taken into account to ensure the wellbeing and mental health of older generations. 

Symptoms of depression are not always easy to identify, making it harder for relatives, friends and carers to provide the additional support needed, and thus help reduce the risks of developing dementia, and notably Alzheimer’s disease.

What is depression?


Depression is a common mental illness and is becoming increasingly common amongst the elderly with 1 in 5 older people are affected by depression living at home and 2 in 5 living in care homes.

It does not discriminate and can affect anyone from any culture, background or age but the elderly are more affected than any other age group, mostly due to the following reasons:
  • Increased chances of isolation
  • Loss of self-worth
  • Bereavement
  • Other health problems affecting morale
Depression manifests itself in many ways, common symptoms being:
  • Sadness and feelings of abandonment
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Insomnia
  • Increased use of alcohol and/or other substances
Although family and friends will pay close attention to person they caring for, they can sometimes remain unaware that their loved ones are afflicted. With this condition, it makes caring for an older person much more difficult as the depression causes them to be unfocused, fatigued and neglecting personal care.

Older people being more likely to be affected by depression when being cared for in a care home, making sure that home care services are opted for when possible would help reduce the risks of depression, allowing the client to remain in their own familiar environment and preserving their independence as much as possible.

What is dementia?


Dementia is a decline in mental ability, which mostly affects memory, perception and problem-solving as well as cognitive thinking. Much like depression, this disease can affect anyone, and increasingly older people, with a growing number of individuals being diagnosed each year as the baby boom generation grows older. 

As you can imagine, caring for someone with dementia is incredibly difficult as the condition worsens, especially when they lose the ability to speak and communication becomes very limited. Simple day-to-day things become difficult, such as feeding and cleaning themselves, which is when it becomes crucial for health, safety, and comfort reasons to seek adequate dementia care services

How to help older people suffering from depression


Support Groups 

Both people suffering from depression and their loved ones and/or caregivers can find joining a support group helpful and encouraging, enabling them to share their stories, exchange advice, and seek reassurance in realising they are not alone. Such groups can easily be found online or within your local community. 

Treatment & Therapy for Depression

There is medication available that can help contain and manage depression, depending on the individual, which can help them regain control and motivation. GPs and therapists highly recommend daily walks in the outdoors, keeping active and pursuing hobbies as an effective way of combating depression. Seeing a therapist or joining group therapy can also be a great alternative to reduce isolation by providing an opportunity to meet new people and open up about depression, hereby engaging in a mutual support system which will in turn participate to enhancing self-esteem. 

Unfortunately, there is currently still no cure for dementia or Alzheimer's, other than treating it with medication if the cause is a protein deficiency to the brain cells or with surgery, if caused by some form of head trauma, yet both can only manage or maintain the symptoms to an extent. Patients diagnosed at an earlier stage are recommended to take up regular exercise and various types of therapy to help keep their body and mind sharp, to help diminish the development of the disease.

Indeed, recommended un-medicated treatment methods for these forms of dementia are extremely similar if not identical to those of depression, reinforcing the association of both conditions.

Professional Home Care Services

Some people are cautious about hiring a professional carer but they can be great support and assurance, not only for the client, but also for their entourage.

When an older person shows symptoms of depression, home care services such as social companionship care services, with which a healthcare professional not only provides care but also emotional support to your loved one hereby creating a trustworthy relationship could significantly help them get through such a challenging time. Indeed, building that close compassionate relationship while helping them through that difficult period and encouraging them through treatment and therapy could thus also decrease the likelihood of developing dementia. 

If you have noticed such symptoms or conditions affecting one of your loved ones, do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of a friendly team to discuss the various ways in which we can help them, as well as you. Alternatively, you can also give us a call on 0800 688 8866 for more information and to discuss your situation further.
Alzheimer's Care

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of Dementia can impact every aspect of a carer's daily life. As Alzheimer’s develops, caregivers will be faced with tests of stamina, problem solving, and resiliency.

Some of the most common situations caregivers face can be truly heart breaking and can sometimes be very difficult to deal with for loved ones and friends.

Alzheimer’s disease not only impacts the daily life of the person affected by it, but is also a very challenging disease to care for, yet these challenges caregivers are faced with on a daily basis are often overlooked, notably as most research and studies aim to focus on the disease itself rather than the ways in which it can be made more bearable. Whilst science is making groundbreaking progress towards finding ways to prevent it, and even maybe a cure one day, carers and sufferers still have to deal with the disease every day.

Nowadays, many care systems are available for sufferers to help them remain comfortable, yet the challenges faced by caregivers in providing them with the best support are often overlooked.

Although every client is different and unique, caregivers often encounter similar situations, which can be made more tolerable if dealt with in certain ways, based on discussions and expert advice from some professional Alzheimer's carers.
 

1. If the person you care for no longer recognises you


If someone suffers from Alzheimer’s, there might come a day when they can no longer recognise or acknowledge you, which will most likely be one of the most heartbreaking experiences you could be faced with, which is why it is even often considered one of the hardest consequences or most challenging symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. In such situation, it is important to remember that as hard as it is, the person suffering is not aware of this lack of recognition, and that they are in no pain, which is often a carer’s primary concern.

How can you help?

Try and visit the person you care for as much as you can: If the person suffering from Alzheimer’s is living in a care facility, it’s important to visit them frequently. Family members might think there is no real positive impact which can come from visiting someone that doesn’t recognise you anymore, yet there are several reasons why continuing to visit does matter, including the following:
  1. The person you care for may actually unconsciously recognise you, but the disease doesn’t allow them to express this recognition.  
  2. The person may remember how often you visit, despite the fact that they might be unaware of their relationship with you.
  3. The person may enjoy having a visitor, despite the fact that he or she may not be completely aware of who you are.
  4. If the person enjoys or even acknowledges your visit, you may feel gratified you’ve given him or her comfort and support, which can help with the care of this disease.
Alternatively, if someone is cared from in their own home, the familiarity of the surrounding, and memory triggers around their house are likely to help them remember you, even if only from time to time, which is why being by their side as often as possible will help reassure and comfort them in these moments of lucidity.

2. If the person loses the ability to talk


If the person you are caring for has Alzheimer’s and become unable to verbally communicate with you, then you may feel like you can’t connect with them anymore. Although this is a common reaction, it is important to keep in mind that connecting and communicating with another person is not exclusively a verbal process. Indeed, there are several forms of nonverbal communications that can help you reach out to the person you care for, which can truly make a difference.

How can you help?

Here are three of the most supportive and empathetic non-verbal communication methods:
  1. Physical contact
  2. Smiling and making eye contact
  3. Using visual and audio aids (photos, paintings and music)

3. If it has become time to consider a care home


This is the last and perhaps one of the most painful and difficult experiences you may encounter, especially when caring for a relative. Most of the time, Alzheimer’s home care services can be sufficient, as care packages are flexible according to the client’s needs, yet if you need to involve care homes in his or her care, it can be extremely difficult, not only for that person but also for caregivers and carers, whom are often overwhelmed by a feeling of letting down the person they care for.

How can you help?

We know this can be a truly heartbreaking decision to make, which is why the best approach to this particular situation is often to discuss it and talk about it by the person it concerns, explaining the reasoning behind the decision, as well as highlighting how this will help care for their health and safety. Such decision will also affect carers personally, as often followed by a feeling of guilt, which is why it is important that you surround yourself with your loved ones, whom will in turn be able to reassure you have made the right decision.

It is important to try and keep in mind that the person you are caring for will often not be fully aware of the situation, and its gravity, which on a positive side enables them to continue enjoying meaningful moments without worrying about the future, helping them in a way avoid fear and pain, any carer’s priority. Nonetheless, trying to keep the person suffering of Alzheimer’s in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible has often proven to help stimulate their memory, and reduce their disorientation.

We are fully aware how challenging and heartbreaking this disease can be for family and friends and carers, notably in the eventuality of a passing, which is why, if you find yourself struggling to come to terms with someone’s passing, we recommend that you seek professional advice and care, to help you get through such a difficult time by providing you with the adequate support.

For more information on the Alzheimer’s care services and other home care services we offer, download our brochure, or if you wish to discuss your needs and requirements in more details, call us on 0800 688 8866 or simply get in touch with a member of our friendly team.