Tips To Reduce Elderly Depression During The Holidays

Portrait of the old woman in the winter

By: Anita Kamiel, RN, MPS

Although we like to think of the holidays as a joyous time of year, not everyone feels that way. It can be a depressing and lonely time for seniors — especially for seniors who are separated from their loved ones. In addition, some seniors might be reminded of lost friends or family members or for the first time find themselves spending the holidays without their significant other. These losses bring on a lot of strong emotions and can be difficult to face alone.

Those of us that work with the elderly approach this time with trepidations. It is a period when they enjoy time with their loved ones, but may mourn all they have lost in terms of loved ones as well as physical capabilities. I have tried to put together some helpful tip sheets in addition to some concrete suggestions on how we can help the senior loved one, caregiver and their families navigate joyfully through this holiday season.

So, what can you do as a loved one of a senior who might be having a difficult time coping during the holidays?

1. Really listen to your senior loved one when they want to talk.

When your loved one talks, listen. Encourage them to express what they are feeling about the holidays, good or bad. If possible, just check in with them daily either by stopping by, calling or even using Skype to see how they are doing and to be there for them if they need to talk. Often, seniors just want to know that someone cares about them and that they are not alone.

2. Ask them for help and advice.

Seniors often get depressed because they feel they cannot participate in holiday planning the way they used to. If you are planning a holiday celebration, let them know they are a big part of that celebration. Ask for their advice or help preparing for the event. Even something as simple as asking them for a recipe can make them feel included in the process. Most importantly, remind them how much they are loved by everyone in the family.

3. Spend quality time with them.

Quality time with your loved ones is important all year long, but especially during the holidays. It can be a great remedy for seasonal depression in the elderly. Look at old holiday pictures, cards or videos with them. Leave them somewhere visible and accessible so your loved one can take a walk down memory lane when they are alone. Ask to hear their memories of the season or stop by to watch some favorite holiday movies.

4. Plan a family gathering.

There is no better way to brighten someone’s mood and show them how much they are loved than by surrounding them with family. Dedicate a special night for everyone to get together for dinner, view a family video or even enjoy a game night. Invite friends, family and anyone else you think your loved one will enjoy seeing. Conversely, let them have a say in which family gathering they would prefer not to attend.

5. Help them with their holiday planning.

Many elderly seniors cannot get out and shop like they used to. Depending on their physical health and age, they may no longer be driving or may not be able to move around a store or mall without assistance. Offer to take your loved one out to do their holiday shopping. If getting out is not feasible for them, bring over a laptop or tablet to help them shop online. It might be a fun experience for them. You can help them decorate their house, wrap gifts or even make gifts. Also, a little extra help baking or preparing meals might be really appreciated.

6. Help them keep to a regular schedule.

With all that is going on around holiday time, it can be easy to slip out of a regular routine. It is important that seniors stay on as much of their normal schedule as possible including keeping up with their medication, getting about seven to nine hours of sleep and eating their three healthy square meals a day. It is equally important to not overeat or overindulge in sweets or alcohol. Be vigilant or tell their caregiver to make sure they keep up their strength during the holiday season.

7. If they are mobile, take them out.

There is no better distraction than getting out of the four walls surrounding them every day. You can bring them to social activities they normally attend or forums for their hobby. Museums in small doses could be quite manageable and shows are even better since you get to sit down. You could even take them shopping if they are so inclined in the busy season. Even grabbing lunch in the neighborhood could be just the fun outing they need.

8. Let’s get physical!

In addition to all the other physical benefits, exercise is great for mood improvement. It can be as effective as anti-depressants without the ill effects and toxicity. There are plenty of exercises designed for the elderly to do at their level of ability taking any limited mobility and stamina into account. Yoga and Tai Chi are also excellent low impact alternatives. Exercise can enhance their weight bearing, balance and muscle density. A qualified personal trainer that comes to the house might be a good solution for those who are unable to get out to classes or a gym.

9. Get them an iPad.

There are many studies that demonstrate the cognitive and psychological benefits of the Internet for the elderly. It opens vistas for them in terms of connecting with the outside world and like minded people. It is also a great platform for connecting with grandchildren and relatives. Buy them an iPad if they don’t already have one, crack it open and sit together with them as they explore what is a new and exciting technology for them. They’ll learn a new skill that could spark some creativity for you both.

10. Consider getting a pet.

Don’t underestimate the value of pets in the life of a senior. Having a manageable, low maintenance pet can provide not only a much needed distraction and companionship, but a sense that seniors can still love and care for another living thing. These are important factors that can ward off the all too pervasive affliction of depression in the elderly. This is also an opportunity to employ an important form of therapy called therapeutic touch.

11. Arrange time for them to laugh and put on a happy face.

If your senior loved one is not up to going out, invite their friends in. Help them make it a pleasant experience by serving light fare and arranging an activity they can have fun with. Even watching a comedy can provide comic relief for all involved. Remember, positivity is infectious. If you’re able to keep a smile on, you’ll spread that holiday cheer to everyone around you, including your loved one who may be struggling with a bout of seasonal depression.

12. You’re never too old for a spa day.

Of course, there is nothing as relaxing as a pampered experience at the spa. However, that might not be feasible for your senior loved one. As the baby boomers age, house call businesses are burgeoning. You can get everything in the comfort of your home, from manicures to massages. Calling in some spa-like professionals could also be a fun activity with their friends.

13. Hire a home healthcare provider.

If you do not have the time to help your loved one during the holidays, consider hiring a home health aide. An aide can help them with errands, decorations for the holidays as well as preparing meals. Home health aides can also provide much needed companionship. You will feel more at ease knowing someone is covering for you and helping take care of your loved one during what might be a vulnerable time in their life.

Depression in the elderly is a serious problem that is far too often overlooked. If you feel the situation is really serious, consider bringing in a professional. There are support groups for all sorts of conditions which could be extremely helpful for appropriately directing your loved one to get insight and help from those facing the same challenges. One on one talk therapy and supportive counseling can help them work through their individual underlying issues without the risks and side effects of medication. However, when medication is deemed necessary, be sure to monitor their intake since the elderly metabolize medications differently than younger adults. You might want to explore some alternative remedies for depression such as omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, SAMe or St. John’s wort. Also, be on the lookout for any warning signs of suicide. Tragically, when the elderly decide to take that step, they are much more ‘successful’ at it than their younger counterparts.

Anita Kamiel, RN, MPS, is the founder and owner of David York Home Healthcare Agency, licensed by the State of New York. She holds a master’s degree in gerontological administration and is fully acquainted with all factors related to eldercare services and the latest guidelines for seniors. Thirty years ago, she realized the need for affordable, quality home health aide services provided and supervised by caring individuals. You can contact her at 718-376-7755 or at www.davidyorkagency.com. David York Agency is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Helping Others Make Lasting Change

Of all the resolutions we make to start the new year, more than half involve becoming healthier: losing weight, eating better, adhering to specific diet, or quitting [insert bad habit here]. And while much is made of how few people achieve their goals, what of those who get it right? The people who drop a dress size, adopt a healthy new routine, eliminate a specific toxic behavior? What constitutes the difference between those who succeed and those who do not? The answer lies not in the resolutions we make, but in how we go about realizing life changes that determines success.

When caring for aging parents or loved ones, a related question might be how to help them adopt new habits when you’re not always there to observe their behavior and offer encouragement—or if they resist making the change. How do we help a loved one overcome a habit that’s bad for their budget, their health, or their general well-being?

TNew Yearshe most common problems the elderly face involve

  • getting enough sleep
  • eating healthfully
  • managing chronic health issues
  • appropriate daily exercise

When helping an elderly adult make positive life changes, consider the following suggestions which experts advise for creating lasting and effective resolutions for the upcoming year:

  • Focus on one habit change, and make it realistic.
  • Understand the “Golden Rule of Habit Change,” which states that every habit has three components:
  • The cue (or a trigger for an automatic behavior to start),
  • A routine (the behavior itself), and
  • A reward (which is how our brain learns to remember this pattern for the future).
  • Learn to recognize triggers.
  • Replace an old habit with a new one, or associate a specific trigger with a different behavior.
  • Take small realistic steps. Make them manageable and duplicate them every day.
  • Celebrate accomplishments.

Whether the goal is to help a parent manage diabetes or to be active on a daily basis, helping another through these steps may not be easy, but the outcome—a healthier lifestyle and potentially longer and more productive life—is worth the effort.

When it’s not possible to spend as much time as you’d like with an aging loved one, David York Agency provides qualified and well-trained healthcare professionals when you need them. Our Certified Home Health Aides (HHA), Certified Personal Health Care Aides (PCA), Registered Nurses (RN), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), are available full- or part-time, live-in or -out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Licensed by the New York State Department of Health, we believe your loved one deserves the very best care. Call for a free consultation today, at 718-376-7755 or visit our website www.davidyorkagency.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn, google+ or Twitter.

Using Color and Contrast to Increase Safety in the Home

As your loved ones age, their changing physical needs also require a change in their physical environment – their home. Elder proofing a home is a way to make sure a senior’s home is safe and in many cases it requires only slight accommodations and a small investment. A simple, yet effective method is incorporating color and contrast to increase the safety and functionality of their home.

color and contrastThe use of color and contrast accommodates the aging eye which may lose sensitivity and have difficulty differentiating similar patterns and colors. Therefore, using bolder color contrast becomes crucial. “When we talk of color contrast, it’s the separation of lights and darks,” said Michael Pause, a professor who teaches color and light theory at North Carolina State. “It’s the notion of being able to distinguish between two surfaces.” For example, using different colors on kitchen countertops and cabinets can help people with declining vision discern where one surface ends and the next begins. Other areas of the home that can benefit from color contrast and make for easier navigating include baseboards, stair edges, ramp edges, door moldings and, in the bathroom showers and bathtubs.

According to the Healthy House Institute,

“If the color of a floor and wall are similar, low light conditions will make it hard or impossible to clearly see where the floor meets the wall. The result for eyes not adjusted to low light conditions can be accidental collisions into the wall perhaps by turning a corner before actually reaching it. High contrast or opposite colors on the floor and walls makes the floor visually ‘pop.’ These are visual cues, additional guideposts for the brain to navigate by.”

There are a myriad of ways to use color and contrast to increase functionality in the home. The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State offers several ideas in its “Universal Design in Housing” guide.

• Use a contrasting color border treatment on between floor surfaces and trim.
• Add color contrast to differentiate between stair treads and risers.
• Emphasize lighting at stairs, entrances and task lighting which affords easy recognition of the junction of floor surfaces and walls.
• Create contrast between countertops and front edges or cabinet faces.
• Avoid glossy surfaces, which may reflect light and glare, potentially confusing the eye.
• To increase safety, install color contrasting faucet handles.
• Use contrasting colors on wall and casements when installing light switches and window hardware.
• Color can also be used for facilitating recognition of everyday-use items in the kitchen and bathroom as well.

David York Agency has done a lot of research about elder proofing homes and has compiled a concise, handy chart for caregivers to use which is available on the caregiver resources page of their website.

David York Agency provides qualified and well-trained healthcare professionals when you need them: Certified Home Health Aides (HHA), Certified Personal Health Care Aides (PCA), Registered Nurses (RN), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), full- or part-time, live-in or -out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Licensed by the New York State Department of Health, we believe your loved one deserves the best care. Call for a free consultation today, at 718-376-7755.

Elements of a Barrier-Free Bathroom

The bathroom has come to be viewed as a retreat – a place for relaxation, solitude and renewal in the home. However, for the elderly and infirm, it can present formidable barriers to use and may compromise safety when physical abilities begin to fail. However, designing or updating a bathroom to be handicap accessible and able to accommodate the changing needs of an individual can incorporate tranquility into a once again functional space.

For an able-bodied person, a standard tub or shower poses no challenge. However, consider changes in mobility and it becomes a different story. Raising the height of fixtures like the sink and toilet, in addition to allowing for increased clearance for walkers or wheelchairs, are simple ways to increase accessibility in this room. On the other hand, the bath and shower are the trickiest for ensuring safety and accessibility.

bathroomsWhen renovating or designing a bathroom to accommodate the elderly or handicapped, many will choose to add shower or bath options that are both user-friendly and beautiful. Increasingly, bathroom remodels incorporate barrier-free showers taking into account possible future needs and the market has responded with some very aesthetically pleasing options.

If a remodel is your choice, a zero-entry or curbless shower offers complete accessibility with no threshold to step over can be designed to occupy any amount of space desired – from that of a standard shower to much larger. Installing a hand-held showerhead on a slide bar is a great way to increase usability, allowing the user to shower while seated. Of course, a shower bar is an easy to install and a popular standard for safety. Walk-in bathtubs are also an option and can be installed in the same footprint as an existing standard-sized tub.

Accessible bathrooms are critical for creating an accessible home as loved ones age. David York Agency is well aware of possible safety hazards and their home health aides know how to navigate their clients in the bathroom safely. David York Agency has done a lot of research about elder proofing homes and has compiled a concise, handy chart for caregivers to use which is available on the caregiver resources page of their website.

David York Agency’s qualified and well-trained healthcare professionals provide additional peace of mind, offering the services of Certified Home Health Aides (HHA), Certified Personal Health Care Aides (PCA), Registered Nurses (RN), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), full- or part-time, live-in or -out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Licensed by the New York State Department of Health, we believe your loved one deserves the best care. Call for a free consultation today, at 718-376-7755.

 

 

Mitigating Pre-Diabetes

Diabetes affects a disproportionate number of older adults—approximately 25% of Americans aged 60 and over. In the United States, our growing aging demographic is clearly one of the drivers of the diabetes epidemic. Another less known condition, prediabetes, is even more common and affects an estimated 50 percent of Americans over 65. Prediabetes is where one’s blood glucose level is above normal, but not high enough to warrant a diagnosis of diabetes. It is important for seniors to be aware of prediabetes because it is very common and greatly increases one’s risk to develop type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Lady SwimmingMedication
When someone is at risk of developing diabetes, a health care provider may prescribe certain medications to manage symptoms. Taking even simpler steps, however, may be even more effective in preventing the disease.

Physical activity
There are numerous studies that show the benefits of being active as we age. This is absolutely vital in diabetes management. The activity doesn’t need to be strenuous—begin slowly to build up stamina and strength. Limited mobility isn’t a barrier, many websites and books today offer suggestions for chair and limited mobility exercises.

Weight loss In addition to increasing physical activity, cutting back on calories from sugar and bad fats can go a long way in managing weight. The American Diabetes Association suggests losing 7 percent of your total body weight as a goal.

Continued monitoring
If you’re at risk for diabetes, having blood glucose checked once a year is standard; some health care professionals may suggest more often. Blood pressure and cholesterol should also be checked regularly, as fluctuations can point to heart disease and blood vessel problems.

If you’ve been told you are prediabetic, or that you’re at risk of developing diabetes, see this as a warning sign—not a life sentence. By taking simple steps and getting help from your health care provider and loved ones, diabetes can be prevented.

David York Agency is skilled at recognizing the symptoms of various diseases endemic to the elderly. David York Agency and their team of home heath aide professionals will be there to help you every step of the way. Our client intake coordinator is available to answer your questions about in-home healthcare. When you sign on as a client, a free nursing assessment helps tailor a specific care plan performed by a caring home health aide.

For more information about our services, please visit www.davidyorkagency.com. You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on our LinkedIn or Twitter pages. You can also call us at 718.376.7755 and we will be happy to talk over your specific home healthcare needs.

Is My Caregiver Available in an Emergency?

It’s estimated that older patients account for nearly 25 percent of all emergency room visits, exhibiting a range of conditions, from physical illness to cognitive disorders. Additional causes or factors can include falls, dementia, delirium, and simultaneously taking several medications, all of which can complicate the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of maladies in the elderly population.

BP is care available in an emergencyBy the time it becomes necessary for you or your loved one to hire a home health aide or caregiver in the home, accidents, illness or emergency room visits have likely already occurred. These incidents often serve as the precipitating event, indicating that personalized, in-home care is important for continued health and well-being. While there’s no guarantee that the aide or caregiver will be present should an emergency event occur, having a healthcare professional’s record of activity, behavior and medical care available can streamline the process, ensuring the best outcome for you or your loved one.

When you choose to work with David York Agency, we begin by contacting your physician and any other concerned healthcare professional, to develop and implement the optimal home care plan to fulfill the patient’s needs. We then select capable home health aides that fit with the individual’s health requirements and living situation. For ongoing care, our Director of Patient Services carefully monitors each case and, at no extra charge, regular visits are made to your home by a registered nurse to supervise your DYA caregiver.

In a life-threatening emergency, calling 911 should always be the first course of action. In the case of other less urgent situations, a David York Agency client always has access to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To request an assessment, call our office in Brooklyn, New York at (718) 376-7755, or visit us online at davidyorkhomehealthcare.com. Our highly skilled Director of Patient Services will carefully listen to your particular caregiver needs and help customize a care plan for your specific home healthcare needs.

Signs of Normal Memory Loss

They’re quips we hear often enough—when a companion forgets a well-known name, for instance, or when you’ve forgotten where you left your keys: “I’m having a senior moment,” or, “My Alzheimer’s is setting in!” The lapse in memory in itself may be disquieting—no one likes to forget things, after all—but while jests of this nature can be rooted in truth, memory loss ranges from what’s perfectly normal to an underlying condition that may indicate a more serious concern.

normal memory lossOver the past several years, scientists have come to more fully understand which types of memory loss are normal and which may be a warning bell. Age plays a normal role in contributing to memory loss.  As we age, the body changes, including the composition of the brain. We know that children learn at an incredibly fast rate; conversely, adults learn more slowly and do not remember information as well, and the elderly are often prone to mild forgetfulness which does not necessarily indicate serious memory problems.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), older adults may find they don't do as well as younger people on complex memory or learning tests. Given enough time, however, studies show that healthy older people can do as well as younger people do on these tests. In fact, as they age, healthy adults usually improve in areas of mental ability such as vocabulary.

Memory problems may be related to treatable health issues. Chronic alcoholism, thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders, tumors, infections, or blood clots in the brain may cause memory loss or dementia. Additionally, side effects from medication can be a cause, as can certain vitamin deficiencies. Emotional problems like stress, anxiety, or depression, can leave a person feeling distracted, making them appear more forgetful. This confusion and forgetfulness caused by emotions is usually temporary.

For some older people, memory problems are a sign of a more serious problem, such as amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or vascular dementia. For those whose memory loss seems excessive, it’s important to consult a doctor, as conducting a thorough health evaluation—including review of medical history, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, and general health—is necessary to getting to the root of the problem.

When memory problems make daily living too challenging or unsafe, David York Agency can assist you with senior care planning.  Contact us at 718-376-7755, or visit us online at davidyorkhomehealthcare.com. Please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

The New York Times just reported on a fascinating study published in the May edition of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience in an article entitled, “Can Exercise Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk?” by Gretchen Reynolds. By examining people aged 65-89 who possess a gene related to Alzheimer’s development, APOE epsilon4 allele (e4 gene for short), the hypothesis that even moderate amounts of exercise or physical activity can help to slow the progression of the disease is confirmed. 

Exercise and AlzheimersThe study was based on relating the following factors:

  • Researchers suspect that it takes years for Alzheimer’s to actually present symptoms in patients. 
  • People with the e4 gene have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Elderly people with the e4 gene who exercised were shown to have better brain functioning than those who did not exercise.
  • Brains of people with Alzheimer’s have hippocampi, a part of the brain necessary for memory processing, that are more shrunken when compared to those in similar age groups without the disease.

The study divided almost 100 men and women between 65-89 years of age into four groups:

  1. Those who have the e4 gene and do exercise.
  2. Those with the e4 gene that do not exercise.
  3. Those who do not have the gene and do exercise.
  4. Those who do not have the gene and do not exercise.

After 18 months, the group who had the e4 gene and exercised had the same normal hippocampi as the two groups who did not have the gene while the group who had the e4 gene and did not exercise saw significant atrophy.  Obviously, this has tremendous implications for those who have the e4 gene.  An exercise regimen is an absolute must for those who have the e4 gene way before any signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. 

Whether you know you have the e4 gene or even just a family history of Alzheimer’s or neither, with all the research indicating the benefit of exercise, it would seem prudent on many levels to incorporate it into your weekly routine. 

David York Agency is well versed in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease in the elderly and our home health aides and home healthcare team are adept at in home senior care.  Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit us at our website www.davidyorkagency.com and we would be happy to give you more information about our elder care services.  You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

 

Alzheimer’s Disease: To Know or Not to Know

Whether or not one is likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease, or any other disease for that matter, may not be something people want to know.  In a Washington Post article entitled, “Would You Want to Know if You’re Likely to Get Alzheimer’s Disease?” we learn of an interesting phenomenon where people are reluctant to sign up for a study to develop protocols to prevent memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients because it requires that they be tested for the presence of amyloid plaque in their brains which has been found to be highly associated with developing Alzheimer’s Disease.  

AlzheimersAmyloid plaque is clusters of protein in the fatty membrane around nerve cells whose buildup seems to be associated with people with the disease.  According to a study out of Stony Brook University, cognitive impairment may likely result when this protein begins to amass.  

In light of this, researchers are eager to get ahead of the curve and find ways to target and reverse this buildup.  The first study in this area, Anti-Amyloid Treatment of Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4 Study), tests the drug solanezumab.  Although the drug was unable to reverse the effects of full blown Alzheimer’s, it shows promise for greater impact earlier on by flushing out the amyloid before its buildup can affect cognition.  

Yet, few seniors in the 65-85 age range seem willing to be screened in order to be part of a study.  It seems that they would prefer not to be alerted of an impending doom to which they are, at the moment, defenseless.  The screening does include preparing participants for results, but takers are scarce.  

This ambivalence about being tested is likely to get even more dicey since a group of British Researchers just announced that they are closing in on a blood test for 10 different blood proteins that can predict with 87% certainty that early signs of dementia will result in Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Unfortunately, to move the playing field in the fight of Alzheimer’s to the pre-symptom stage, researchers might have trouble bussing the players to the field. 

 
David York Agency is well versed in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease in the elderly and our home health aides and home healthcare team are adept at in home senior care.  Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit us at our website www.davidyorkagency.com and we would be happy to give you more information about our elder care services.  You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.