Depression & The Elderly

Depression in seniors in not uncommon, but that does not mean that it lacks seriousness or should be taken lightly. By definition, depression is a prolonged state of sadness that is different from grieving and can last a very long time. In this post, we will help you to understand if you or an elder you know has depression. It can sometimes be difficult to determine this, as many aging diseases or other aging traits can be perceived as symptoms of depression. The good news is that you can take steps to help reduce the stressors in the senior’s life or get them professional assistance to help them feel better.

Common symptoms of depression

Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Fatigue and decreased energy

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Restlessness/IrritabilityInsomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable

Overeating or appetite loss

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

What you can do to help

If the elder that you care for experiences these symptoms, it may alert you that they could have depression. You may instinctively want to help them or change it, but the best things that you can do for is being a faithful friend or seeking professional help. Sometimes people like to talk about their feelings, but in most cases, discussing it only makes it worse and can cause anger towards your attempts to help. If you know the person well enough that they like to openly express their feelings, you can subtly ask them if there is anything that they would like to talk about or that has been bothering them. To not be persistent or aggressive, if they want to talk they will when they are ready.

Depending on the severity, attempting to get an able-bodied homebound senior outdoors and interacting with other people may help. Doing light exercises like water aerobics can also do a great deal of good, provided that the senior is willing and their doctor enables the activity. If the depression is more serous and the senior denies the opportunity to do any activities because he or she no longer finds them enjoyable or ‘worthwhile’, you should contact a medical professional. Their extensive experience in having elderly patients with depression gives them expertise and the elder’s doctor may know private information about their health that could be linked to the depression.

Depression is not an easy thing watch a loved one experience. With a watchful eye and caring heart, it can be spotted early and its chances of getting worse can decrease. Just be careful not to assume too quickly or ask too many personal questions, as some of the symptoms can be the result of an aging disease and not depression. You should never, under any circumstances recommend or give the senior any medication that is not prescribed by their doctor. Medication is very complex and when it is taken in combination with others or not under professional circumstances, the consequences can be very negative physically for the senior and legally for the person that recommends the medication.

Caregiver’s Guilt: Recognition and Acceptance

Every task in our lives with value carries with it some inherent challenges and problems. As students, we had the dreaded homework. If we chose to participate in sports, we had to practice, even when we did not wish to. As parents, we had those days when we really wished we had decided not to have children. If we did not do our homework, skipped practice, or took a break away from our children, we felt guilty. Guilt seemed to move on with us as the situation changed. 

Taking care of an elderly person, whether they are a parent, a friend, or someone for whom we have assumed responsibility is a valuable life experience. And, just as with any other experience with value, there are challenges and difficulties. Our responses to the daily activities we engage in as we provide for elder care needs can breed that old, familiar feeling of guilt. It helps if we recognize the reasons for elder guilt and accept them as normal.

Everyone has difficult days, and this is especially true for the elderly, who have aches and pains, may be lonely, or suffer from memory loss or confusion. Dealing with changing needs and moods can be difficult and, no matter how hard we try to stay positive, resentment can creep in and then we feel guilt. Such feelings are normal. Here are three ways you can deal with elder guilt:

  1. Be honest about your feelings. If you admit to them, that is the first step in moving on. It may help to discuss your feelings honestly with someone else involved in elder care.
  2. Take a break. Just as with child-rearing, sport practice, and homework, some time away from what is causing the stress and resultant guilt can help allay those feelings. You may only be able to step into the kitchen to retrieve a cool drink of water, but when you get there, take a deep breath and relax, then return.
  3. Learn to deal realistically with expectations – yours and the person for whom you are caring. You cannot meet every need and requirement for care, no matter how hard you try. Be happy with doing your best. Also, realize that some desires expressed by the elder in your care simply cannot be met. If they wish to eat something prohibited by their doctor that is a need you cannot meet. Be content to do what you can to keep the person in your care as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Elder care is a valuable life experience. However, there are days when everything feels overwhelming and we may not be proud of our response. When elder guilt sets in, admitting honestly to the feeling, taking a break, and realistically dealing with daily challenges and problems, can help those moments pass and make our elder care experience even more rewarding.

Communicating Effectively with Seniors

Many elderly or disabled people struggle with hearing, reading, writing and general communication skills. We cannot verbally or non-verbally communicate with them the same way we do with our peers. It is important to understand that as people grow older, they often become more difficult to understand and changes in their environment may influence their communication.

Do not communicate quickly with the elderly or disabled when communicating, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly and directly to them. We may sometimes get in the habit of multitasking while speaking with our peers, resulting in a weaker message or conveying the message that we are not interested in what they have to say. Our peers understand and are accustomed to this communication method, however, elders not so much. They don’t live in as fast a pace world as the younger generations.

Elders may demand extra attention in conversations to not convey that you respect what they have to say, but also to ensure that they receive your message clearly. Another important factor is to communicate as simply as possible using small words, short sentences and visual aids. Many elderly or disabled people have short-term memory loss, which means that they may struggle to remember recent events or conversations that you may have had with them.

If an elder makes a statement that you do not agree with, do not argue with them or attempt to instill your logic. While you may be able to have casual arguments with your younger friends and family, elderly adults can also be very close to their beliefs and you should not get them overly exited. It may be fine to have relaxed discussions about events, but disputing personal beliefs and values is rarely accepted in any social context.

To help elders recall what you are communicating to them, you should re-state key ideas of the topic frequently. Some believe that repeating key points three times helps people to remember the points later on. Many authors use this same technique by stating the key points in the introduction and conclusion.

Professional authors are presenting the important features of the overall message that they want their readers to recall. This may not always be important when communicating with the elderly and some may find it offensive. It is a helpful technique if you notice that the elder has difficulty remembering the key points of your conversations.Elder_Communication

Listening to elders can also play an essential role in the communication process; communication is a give-and-take relationship. Sometimes, we may be focusing on our own thoughts and responses and do not pay enough attention to the other person’s message. By taking the time to listen and asking the elder questions, you may find that all other aspects of communication improve as well. The elderly are not the only ones who want to be listened to and heard, although it is especially important that they are. In today’s conversations with our peers, some have come to expect that the person is not fully engaged in our conversation.

Making sure that you receive the sender’s message is essential to have an appropriate response, sometimes we may be thinking about our response while the other person is still talking. By listening intently, we can often understand communication on a greater level, respect the sender and learn more about them.

You may find that this technique of communication will carry over into all aspects of your life. If you have ever watched an interview on television,you can observe how intently the interviewer appears to be listening to the interviewee. Expert communicators have developed great listening skills, because they understand how important listening is when speaking with someone.

It is important to allow extra time for the elder to ask questions when you are communicating and express their reaction to what has been said. Elders have a tendency to struggle when conveying their thoughts and feelings; sometimes there is a time lapse that is longer than younger adults.

Although waiting for a response can be trying at times, it should not prevent you from asking questions. Keeping elders engaged in the conversation helps you to understand them better, strengthens your relationship and gives them confidence. By taking measures to improve message quality and using the basic principles of communication, you can enrich all conversations with the elderly.

The positive aspects of good communication are present in all social environments and mastering them will help you to convey your messages more effectively. By using some of the same techniques to communicate as the professionals do, you can enhance the elder’s chances or receiving your message and improve the relationship.

Key Points

1. Be patient when communicating.

2. Keep messages short, simple and to the point.

3. Focus on listening and interpreting verbal and non-verbal communication.

4. Use non-verbal gestures to complement your verbal message.

5. Summarize and repeat key points if necessary.

6. Never dispute beliefs or argue with the elderly.

Elder Law Information: Disability Planning

This is the first post on disability planning, is first in a series on free elder law advice designed to provide you with legal counsel for the elderly. Disability planning can be a complex process and add anxiety to your life. Our organization strives to reduce the worry and enhance the lives of elders and relatives. We will be presenting simple information on what social security is, if the elder is eligible and how he or she can obtain it.

Social security exists in the United States, serving as a ‘safety net’ for the elderly, disabled and blind. The amount of money that one can receive typically increases each year and depends on if the person is single or married. As of January 2012, an individual would receive $698 in social security per month and a couple would receive $1,048 per month. Some states supplement the social security amount with additional payments; click this linkto see if this applies to that state that the elder resides in.Social security does not depend on how long or if a person has worked, so long as they meet the criteria:

  1. Be 65 or older, blind or disabled.
  2. Be a long term resident of the United States or a United States citizen.
  3. Have a monthly income below the limit determined by the elder’s state of residence.
  4. Have less than $2,000 in assets of currency, stocks and bonds.

If you meet the qualifications for social security assistance and would like to apply, you may do so by visiting your local social security administration office. Click this link to locate a branch near your zip cod

 

Tips For Visiting Elderly Relatives During The Holidays

Elder care is a growing issue in society. Caregiving at a distance can be difficult, stressful and time-consuming. And often the only time caregivers see the loved one is on a family visit, more than not tied around a holiday. It is very noticeable when something is awry when visits are infrequent. This holiday season be aware of your older loved one’s physical and mental capacity and take notice of their environment. Whether visiting someone in senior care centers or at home, here are some tips to help.

Where do you start?

First use your senses. Observe with your eyes, ears, and with your senses of taste, touch and smell. Look at the house/apartment. Is it being kept up? Is the environment unsafe, unsanitary? Track the chores you do while there as they could point to services your loved one needs after you leave. Is there any thing obviously missing or large-scale new purchases? This could indicate some type of exploitation/abuse by others.

How can you tell if a loved one has been abused?

As a healthcare conference speaker, I often need to remind my audience members of their responsibility in the community. And watching out for abuse of elders is one such responsibility.

There are different types of abuse, some initiated by others and those of self-neglect. Again use your senses. Observe physical or sexual abuse — bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks.

Is there a new best friend around? Does a home care worker refuse to allow you to see your loved one alone?

Emotional abuse — is a loved one being emotionally upset or agitated; being extremely withdrawn and non communicative or self report being verbally or emotionally mistreated? These are signs that something is up.

Is mom or dad just slowing down or is there more going on?

It could be natural old age setting in or there could be signs of bigger health issues going on. Has there been excessive weight gain, weight loss, decline in general hygiene? How is their strength and balance? Does it prevent them from doing things? Will they accept help, say when you go to a mall and offer to get a wheelchair? Check for dehydration or undernourishment. Are your parents eating nutritious meals regularly? Are they able to prepare meals?

Are they wearing inappropriate clothes? Is their clothing inadequate? Check that they have all of their medical aids — eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures.

Look for signs of declining memory. Are loved ones placing items in wrong places, missing appointments? Are they forgetful?

Check expiration dates on medications. Are loved ones forgetting to take medications? Can they afford their medications? Has the number of prescriptions increased significantly?

Signs of Financial Stress

Unopened mail could indicate memory problems, vision problems, or hint at financial problems. Sweepstakes circulars could indicate they or someone is responding to offers. Are there overdue bills? Are bill collectors calling or showing up at the house?

Check for any changes in the loved ones bank account. Check for any additional names on a bank signature card. Check their bank statements. Is there unauthorized withdrawal of funds?

What Do I Do If They Need Care?

First, there is a delicate art on how to communicate with an elder loved one. You want to enjoy the time you have with them and ease into the conversation. Gather information on community services that can meet their needs. Take notes of services, fees, waiting lists.

Schedule a visit with your elder’s physician during the time you are there. Identify a social support system for your loved one. This includes people they can call on such as friends, neighbors, clergy, and others in regular contact. Meet these people while you are there.

Even if loved ones are fine, advance planning can help you to avoid a crisis in the future. Take a medication inventory. Document the names of physicians. Make sure they have a living will and durable power of attorney. Know where to find their financial information.

Enjoy your time with an elderly parent, relative or friend this season but be watchful of their needs. They will not let on or ask for help. So be a good observer, listener, and friend.

Written by Anthony Cirillo.

Taken from: The Huffington Post

How to Help Aging Parents Stay Healthy: Elderly Resources for Healthy Living

When we say, “stay healthy,” we do not just mean eating a well balanced diet. Staying healthy can be synonymous with staying protected physically, being mentally happy and emotionally well balanced in this context. As we get older, the importance of this broad meaning increases, along with our decisions to become more health conscious. Fortunately, plenty of resources exist willing to provide help for senior citizens such as yourself or your elderly parents. The sites listed below cost nothing; they are entirely free elderly resources from U.S. Government organizations designed to improve and maintain seniors’ health.

Senior Care Resources for Health & Wellbeing:

National Center on Elder Abuse: If you or someone you love is being abused or neglected, this website is a free anonymous hotline to report the individual to the proper authorities. Not only will you be enabling the victims to receive better care for the elderly, you could be potentially saving a life.

Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Costs: If an elder makes less than $13,000 alone or $26,000 combined income, they may be eligible for addition help with prescription drug costs in the United States.  This may be a good option to provide elderly parents or yourself with adequate care for seniors and to protect the senior’s health with medication prescribed by a medical doctor.

Eating Healthy: This free guide from the National Institute on Aging provides resources for elders on how to continue eating healthy after age fifty. It focuses on the daily diet and how it can be improved to manage seniors’ health.

 

Thinking Beyond Revenue, our Equation to Happiness.

There is a saying, “don’t cry over anything that cannot cry back.” It essentially means, do not place an emphasis on material possessions because they do not matter more than non-material things. Compassion, care and genuine companionship for the elderly are more rewarding than fancy cars, houses or boats. Many people believe this, while many others do not. A person’s true response to this may be best understood in critical situations. There was once a story of a sinking boat containing several very expensive jet planes. Instead of attempting to save a single multi-million dollar object, the top priority was to save the few people on board. To us, this seems like common sense. Saving the people has a reward that cannot be purchased with money, cannot be achieved through collecting a mass of fancy possessions.

There are several people in the world that would choose to save the merchandise instead. They may perceive financial gain to be superior to emotional satisfaction. We are not saying that these people are wrong or bad, just that they may be missing out on our greater rewards. When we talk about our operations with people placing an emphasis on profits with elder care services, they often do not understand our motives. Something that I have been asked is, “Why would you charge just enough money to cover expenses, when you could be making ten times this amount?”

We believe that you understand, striving to provide for the best elder care services gives us an emotional reward greater than money. While some companies strive for revenue and profits, we want to set a good example for the affordable hospices or geriatric providers of the world. We believe that money can take a higher level of satisfaction out of some things in life, which is why we strive to be the option for non-profit elder care in your community by connecting volunteers helping elders. By being affiliated with our program, it means that you understand the greater rewards, seeing past the immediate financial or material gains.

Early Stages of Alzheimer’s: Helping Elderly Parents through Understanding

As you or your elderly relative becomes older, they may experience some indications that could be early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner that you notice these signs,the better help that you can provide help for your aging parents. Alzheimer’s has several levels of severity,however we will be focusing on the actions indicating the disease in general.

Severe memory loss preventing daily living can be one sign that is tricky to distinguish, because some people simply have a poor memory. If the memory loss disrupts the elder’s daily life or general problem solving abilities it may be helpful to investigate further. If the elder is regularly confused for activities that were once routine or elementary, this may be an indication of the disease.

The confusion may be demonstrated in conversation or if the elder misplaces objects frequently. A social withdrawal or change in mood or personality may also be due to other circumstances, so you may be able to notice more than one symptom. If you or the volunteer for the elder notices that he or she has become fearful, depressed or worried frequently or disassociate with normal activities, it may be the result of something else. It is important to focus on several signs and understand that while it is important to know early, it may be easily misunderstood for something else.

Cranky Old Man

The context below is imaginary, the poem was written originally by Phyllis McCormack and adapted by Dave Griffith.

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem winging across the Internet.Cranky Old ManWhat do you see nurses?…….     What do you see?
What are you thinking…….   when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man,…….    not very wise,
Uncertain of habit…….    with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food…….    and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice…….    ’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice…….    the things that you do.
And forever is losing…….     A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not…….     lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding…….    The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking?…….    Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse…….    you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am…….     as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, …….     as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten…….    with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters…….   who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen…….   with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now…….     a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty…….    my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows…….    that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now…….    I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide…….     And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty…….     My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other…….   With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons…….    have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me…….     to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more,…….    Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children…….    My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me…….     My wife is now dead.
I look at the future…….    I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing…….     young of their own.
And I think of the years…….      And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man…….      and nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age…….      look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles…….      grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone…….    where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass…….    A young man still dwells,
And now and again…….    my battered heart swells
I remember the joys…….    I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living…….     life over again.
I think of the years, all too few…….      gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact…….     that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people…….     open and see.
Not a cranky old man.
Look closer…   see…….   ME!!Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!The best and most beautiful things of this world can’t be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart!

Communication Tips: for volunteers helping elders

As an elder care service, we stress the importance of communication when caring for seniors. Proper verbal and non-verbal communication can improve the companionship that you provide. We have collected three tips for you today that will improve your relationship with seniors and the non-profit elder care that you provide for them.

Encourage engagement:  When elders respond to questions that you ask them, it lets you know that they understand the message that you are conveying to them. It helps you become a better elderly caregiver when you actively ask open-ended questions and allows the elder to feel better about their own communication methods.

Re-state main points: Many great writers or speakers will include conclusions into their presentations or literature to help readers remember the key points. When serving as a volunteer caregiver for the elderly, you can improve your communication and increase the ideas remembered by simply re-stating them.

Short, Sweet and to the Point: Steven Hawking is a famous physicist and writer, well known for his ability to present complicated material for anyone to understand. Most people prefer short and simple sentences, with the key points easy to understand. We believe that shortening and simplifying your speech will help you to provide better help for the elderly and improve other relationships as well.