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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.
Alzheimer's

There’s no denying that Alzheimer’s can have a terrible impact on the lives of sufferers and their loved ones, and with diagnosis rates steadily rising, management of the disease is now more important than ever. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimers, but, as its prevalence continues to increase, notably with the aging of the baby boomers generation, research has been stepped up, and it looks as though there might finally be some light at the end of the tunnel.

A new study, published in the journal of Nature Structural & Molecular Biology in February 2015, claims that to have found a way of stopping Alzheimer’s in its tracks, which could lead to the development of a new drug which would have the ability to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s, when taken in the earliest stages of the disease. Alzheimer’s is caused by the formation of plaques in the brain, which hamper nerve cells and interfere with brain function. However, the research revealed that the use of a certain molecule, found naturally in human lungs, can halt this process, and prevent the creation of more plaques.There is still some way to go before this research can be used to develop a drug, but nonetheless, this discovery could lead to a preventative treatment for potentially millions of individuals, allowing them to lead normal lives well into old age.

Another recent study, reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine in March 2015, was conducted by scientists from the University of Queensland, and explored the use of ultrasound to restore brain function in mice with Alzheimer’s. Ultrasound was used to remove the abnormal clumps of brain proteins caused by the disease, and the mice showed a 50% reduction in the amount of plaques following 5-7 weeks’ of treatment, which allowed them to regain lost brain activity. Again this research is in its early stages, but the results on mice were promising, and this will lead to medical trials of the treatment in humans over the next few years. 

Finally, some research from Duke University in North Carolina, published in the Journal of Neuroscience in April 2015, claims to have shed light on the cause of Alzheimer’s which could lead to a whole new wave of treatment options. The study revealed that when Alzheimer’s takes hold, immune cells that normally protect the brain instead start to consume an important brain nutrient called arginine, which leads to the suppression of the immune system. By blocking this process with a drug (DFMO), the team observed that plaques were prevented from forming in the brains of mice, leaving neurological function unaffected.

Currently Alzheimer’s and dementia affect more than 830,000 people in the UK alone, so the ramifications of these discoveries are very far reaching indeed. However, although these results are promising, treatment remains some way off, and even with significant advances in research, it will still be a number of years before any medication will be available to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s.

At Sova Healthcare we know the life changing consequences that this cruel illness can have, and that’s why we’re dedicated to offering a care package which is entirely tailored to you, to help make things a little easier. We will work with you and your loved ones to develop a unique care plan, and we can provide as much, or as little assistance as you require. 

If you’d like to find out more about care available for Alzheimer’s sufferers, please visit our dedicated Alzheimer’s Home Care page, or contact us to talk through your requirements with a friendly member of our team.

Photograph by Bev Sykes.
Over one million people have now signed up to The Alzheimer's Society's groundbreaking 'Dementia Friends' initiative.

Dementia Friends

The programme originally launched two years ago, and it aims to educate the general public on what dementia is, how to spot the symptoms, and how to help those suffering from the illness, in order to eradicate the fear and isolation felt by many with the disease. The plan is working towards creating 'dementia friendly communities' with support networks across the country.

Although there are an estimated 720,000 people suffering from dementia in England alone, many have not been diagnosed. Prime Minister David Cameron has called it "one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime", and the government has announced that it will be providing more than £300m to tackle dementia during the next parliament.

If you'd like to sign up to become a Dementia Friend, you can join the initiative here.

Learn how to spot the signs of dementia.

Do you know someone with the following symptoms?

  • Memory loss, especially problems with remembering recent events
  • Increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning
  • Becoming confused in unfamiliar environments
  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Difficulty with numbers and/or handling money in shops
  • Changes in personality and mood
  • Depression

How can Sova Healthcare help those suffering from dementia?

Dementia can be a very challenging condition to care for. Sufferers, and their friends and family, can be put under a lot of strain, so it is of vital importance that the right help is received. At Sova Healthcare, we understand that every case of dementia is unique, and that it will affect you and your family in different ways. This is why our specialist care package is tailored to individuals, so you can be sure that your personal requirements will be taken into account. Our highly trained and experienced carers will provide compassionate and sensitive care for those with dementia in their own homes, allowing them to retain their independence for as long as possible.

If you would like to find out more about our services, please visit our dementia care page, or contact us for more information.