Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Seniors and Depression: Not an Uncommon Pair

"Depression is not considered a part of the normal aging process. However, depression late in life is quite common: an astounding 19 percent of those aged 65 and older, or some 6.5 million, experience it. Forced relocation, such as having to move into a facility, can greatly increase the likelihood of developing depression in seniors.

Many elderly people report feeling useless, or feel as though they are not taken seriously, and that anything they say is perceived to have little value.

Depression often appears in nursing home residents. Individuals may begin to feel that their life lacks significant goals or ambitions, and they feel abandoned. Older adults living at home alone who have no social support are also at high risk of developing depressive symptoms.

In addition, late-life depression is associated with deteriorating physical health and multiple chronic medical conditions. Twenty five percent of seniors with restricted mobility and physical capabilities develop major depression within two years of the disability’s onset.

Some of the most common signs of depression in the elderly that family members or seniors themselves can observe are:
•Changes in sleeping patterns.
•Weight loss.
•Changes in appetite.
•Loss of interest in hobbies and pastimes.
•Decreased attention to personal hygiene.

Cases of depression in the elderly population are extremely underdiagnosed and therefore undertreated, so the first step in fighting or preventing depression is to consult a physician. Treating depression with the help of a healthcare professional can be a smoother and easier process than battling it alone.

What Can You Do?

There are a number of easy ways to enrich senior’s lives and help prevent depression. For example, caregivers at Griswold Special Care make sure that our clients go for walks on a regular basis, maintain a healthy diet and eating schedule, and discover new recreational skills or hobbies such as knitting or scrapbooking.

Also, keeping in regular contact with friends, neighbors and family members can positively influence an aging individual’s confidence and overall well-being. As many seniors report finding joy in making other people happy, volunteering and engaging in the activities that benefit the lives of others are additional tools to fight depressive symptoms. Moreover, involvement in recreational activities such as games or reading can increase, or at least maintain, brain activity. As a result, this participation has the potential to give seniors confidence in their cognitive abilities.

For seniors living alone, having a personal caregiver to assist with the tasks and activities of everyday living or a companion to share favorite hobbies with can be both beneficial and joyful. Here at Griswold Special Care, we personally match clients with caregivers to reflect the client’s personal preferences, interests, and characteristics, and also ensure that a caregiver becomes a true friend and a member of the family."

Diane Walker, RN, MS, is the Vice president of Quality and Compliance at Griswold Special Care. Diane is responsible for developing ongoing educational programs for professional and family caregivers. Diane is the editor for the Caring Times, a publication and website for caregivers and healthcare professionals.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Five ways to manage costs of caring for aging parent

By Sandra Block, USA Today.
Last March, Brad Veitch, 60, of Moraga, Calif., discovered that his mother, Marion, had given thousands of dollars to swindlers who used the phone and mail to peddle hard-luck stories and get-rich-quick schemes. To stop the fraud, Veitch had to change his mother's phone number — twice.

By June, Veitch began to notice that his mother, a former executive for the American Red Cross, was becoming increasingly forgetful and agitated. Around that same time, Veitch lost his job as an administrator for a for-profit school.

Veitch's mother lives alone in a small town in California's San Joaquin Valley, a five-hour drive from Moraga. For a while, he drove to her home every other week, usually for three days at a time. She doesn't own a computer, so Veitch couldn't use the Internet to search for a job while caring for her. He also worried that he would miss calls from potential employers while on the road.

"So much of job searching today is networking," he says. "When you connect with a person and they say they'll call you back, it produces anxiety when you realize (you're) going to be gone for three days." Veitch says he's been out of work before, but this time, "The burden seems to be much greater, and I think it is because my emotional reservoir is depleted. So much of it has gone to Mom."

Veitch feared he would need to hire a caregiver, something he knew his independent-minded mother would oppose. But a group of friends from his mother's church has helped him avoid that step. One friend stops by in the morning to make sure she's taken her medication, another stops by for lunch or dinner, and two check in daily by phone. Their aid has let Veitch, who hopes to be working soon, reduce his visits to once every three weeks.

"The church has really done the day-to-day care," he says. "If they hadn't been there, I'd be hiring somebody to do that."

In many respects, Veitch's mother is fortunate: She has a committed support group and the financial resources to pay a caregiver if that becomes necessary. Many seniors don't have those advantages, which means their children are forced to shoulder at least some of the cost of their care. More than 40% of caregivers are spending more than $5,000 a year on a loved one's care, according to a survey by Caring.com, a consumer website.

The economic downturn has made that burden even heavier. Unemployment, wage cuts and furloughs have diminished many families' incomes, leaving less money for caregiving. The problem is particularly acute for women, who are the majority of caregivers. Nearly 40% of female caregivers say the downturn has made it harder for them to care for loved ones, according to an April 2010 survey by Volunteers of America.
The downturn "has had an immense impact on women and their ability to care for older loved ones," says Jatrice Gaiter, executive vice president of Volunteers of America. "Women weren't making as much in the first place, and a lot have low-level service jobs that don't allow them to have a lot of extra money."
There are steps you can take to cut costs that won't compromise your parent's care. Five ways to manage caregiving costs:

•Claim your parent as a dependent. Depending on the amount of support you provide, you may be eligible to trim your tax bill by claiming your parents. To do this, your parent's income, excluding Social Security, must be less than the amount of the personal exemption. For 2010, the personal exemption was $3,650; for 2011, it's $3,700. In addition, you must provide more than 50% of a parent's financial support. If the parent lives with you, you can include a percentage of your mortgage and utilities, says Graham Weihmiller, president of Griswold Special Care, a provider of in-home care. You can claim more than one parent as a dependent if both meet the income and support tests, he says.

•Deduct your parent's medical expenses. If you contribute to a parent's health care expenses, you may qualify to deduct those costs, even if you can't claim the parent as a dependent. To claim this deduction, you must provide at least 50% of the parent's financial support, but you don't have to meet the income test, Weihmiller says. In addition, the deduction is limited to medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Qualified expenses include the cost of a nursing home, in-home health care, dental care and prescription drugs. You can include your own unreimbursed medical expenses when calculating total costs.

•Find out if you qualify for government help. Fifteen states offer a Cash & Counseling program for low-income seniors who are eligible for Medicaid. These programs provide eligible seniors with funds to pay for in-home care, including care provided by family members, says Robin Joy, vice president of marketing for Caring.com. A few other states offer similar grants to seniors who have limited income but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Your local Area Agency on Aging office can provide information about programs in your state.

•Pay a family member to provide care. More than a third of caregivers surveyed by Caring.com have been forced to quit jobs, take early retirement, reduce hours or take leaves of absence. If you're in that situation, using a parent's savings to pay yourself a salary can replace some of that lost income.
To avoid conflicts and confusion, draw up a contract outlining the terms of the agreement and share it with other family members, Joy says. If your parent applies for state assistance, you may need the document to show how his or her money has been spent. You can find more information about caregiving contracts at Caring.com.

•Don't overlook your own long-term care needs. Veitch says he and his wife have purchased long-term insurance policies because they don't want to be a burden to their children.
But many families with competing demands on their finances have a hard time paying the premiums. Jeannie Parr, 53, of Columbia, Md., says she's looked into long-term care insurance, but has some immediate concerns, such as contributing to a college savings plan for her son, Sebastian, 5.
Parr hopes family history is on her side. For most of her 88 years, Parr's mother was healthy and active. "My mother was a role model," she says. "She did water aerobics a couple of times a week."
There are low-cost steps you can take, says Alyson Burns, director of the AARP's Long-Term Care Awareness Campaign. For example, it costs nothing to draw up a living will and a health care proxy, she says. If you plan to stay in your home, low-cost modifications such as railings and better lighting can reduce the risk of disabling accidents. Long-term care should be "top of mind for everyone over age 35," Gaiter says. "You must prepare and take care of yourself."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

All About Nutrition

The more I research, the more studies conclude that nutrition, proper diet, and exercise help to prevent many diseases. So, today is all about nutrition. Here are 3 interesting facts and helpful hints offered on Dr. Carroll Parish's News and Views blogsite at: http://carrollsviews.blogspot.com/


"Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics, a new study has found. The effect, which can be produced even by soaking a cinnamon stick in your tea, could also benefit millions of non-diabetics who have blood sugar problems but are unaware of it. The active ingredient in cinnamon is a water soluble polyphenol compound called MHCP. In test tube experiments, MHCP mimics insulin, activates its receptor, and works synergistically with insulin in the cells. In a study using Pakistani volunteers, cinnamon also lowered blood levels of fats and "bad" cholesterol, which are also partly controlled by insulin. And it also neutralized free radicals, damaging chemicals which are elevated in diabetics. Cinnamon's essential oils also qualify it as an "anti-microbial" food, and has been studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida. So, start using that cinnamon!"

Low Vitamin D Levels Could Cause Liver Disease

by Dr. Simi Paknikar
"We are all aware that low levels of vitamin D can cause weak bones. A recent study indicates that it could be associated with liver disease as well! Researchers claim that low vitamin D could be one of the reasons behind the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD occurs due to accumulation of triglycerides in the liver cells. Outpatients of suspected metabolic syndrome with normal liver enzymes, no excessive alcohol intake, negative for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, no cirrhosis or chronic liver disease were subjected to liver ultrasound to estimate the presence and degree of fatty liver disease. 25(OH) vitamin D levels were measured to estimate any deficiency of vitamin D. The researchers found that patients with NAFLD had low levels of 25(OH) vitamin D. They also found that the lower 25(OH) vitamin D levels, the worse is the degree of fatty liver disease. This association was independent of other possible influencing factors like age, sex, triglycerides, HDL and fasting blood glucose levels."

Finally, one last helpful hint for today:


You don't usually see it or taste it, but fiber works wonders for your body. Dietary fiber is a known cancer fighter found only in the cell walls of plant foods. For years, studies have pointed to the fact that increased fiber intake decreases the risk of colorectal cancer. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (1999) this protective effect may be due to fiber's tendency to add bulk to your digestive system, shortening the amount of time that wastes travel through the colon. As this waste often contains carcinogens, it is best to removed it as quickly as possible. The Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1999) reported that fiber may also help protect against breast cancer, an effect noted especially with consumption of whole grains and wheat bran. Studies indicate that that high amounts of fiber may also prevent breast cancer by binding to estrogen. When bacteria in the lower intestine break down fiber, a substance called butyrate is produced which may inhibit the growth of tumors of the colon and rectum as reported in the Journal of Oncology Research in 2000. Fiber may also have a protective effect against mouth, throat and esophageal cancers according to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2001. Most Americans only take in about 10-15 grams of fiber per day. However, studies have shown that to have a cancer preventing effect one needs about 30-35 grams per day. So what should we do? Eat more vegetables!
For more hints on nutrition, visit: Dr. Carroll Parish's News and Views blogsite at: http://carrollsviews.blogspot.com

Monday, August 8, 2011

Deep Breathing: An Effective Tool for Stress Relief--by Katherine McPherson

Sometimes relaxing is much easier said than done. We all know that stress is part of life, and that if it goes unchecked, it can be destructive to your health. Helpguide.org states:
When stress overwhelms your nervous system your body is flooded with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight”. While the stress response can be lifesaving in emergency situations where you need to act quickly, it wears your body down when constantly activated by the stresses of everyday life. The relaxation response puts the brakes on this heightened state of readiness and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.
Fortunately, there are ways to intentionally help your body relax, and deep breathing is a powerful tool to do this. The Pioneer Woman has an excellent post on how to effectively do soft belly breathing. Check it out here.

See other information from Helpguide.org on effective ways we can all use to reduce stress here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Get Creative!

Almost one million people in the US live with Parkinson's disease, a disease that currently has no cure. Living with the diagnose can feel overwhelming, frustrating, and cause fear, especially as the chronic disease progresses.

So, what can you do if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with the disease? How can you help them cope?

Certainly you'll want to comply with your doctor's professional advice and treatment plan...but are there additional helpful tips that alleviate the symptoms of the disease?

According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation the answer to that question is yes. Though there is currently no medical cure for Parkinson's, the Foundation suggests activities - such as painting, drawing, dancing, singing, making jewelry or playing an instrument - may actually ease Parkinson's disease (PD) symptoms. Stating that "many people with PD report that creative endeavors temporarily relieve their symptoms." (http://www.pdf.org/en/creativity)

So, if you or someone you love struggles with Parkinson's Disease, plan a little time to paint, draw, sing, or dance. Enjoy making a simple necklace or bracelet together.

Don't know where to begin? Google: "make simple jewelry." Or, "learn how to paint."

Most of all...though you may feel powerless, overwhelmed, or filled with fear...DON'T EVER give up--Instead, get creative!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Planning Activities for Loved Ones with Dementia

Elderly Woman Doing Jig Saw Puzzle
Photo from here
Planning and doing activities with a loved one who has dementia can provide meaning and encouragement to both the memory-impaired individual and his/her caregiver. Finding activities that are well-suited for your loved one can be challenging but it is rewarding when you have a positive experience. The Alzheimer's Association has provided tips and guidelines in their online brochure, "Activities at Home." You can read the whole brochure by following this link.

Some helpful information that has been pulled from this brochure includes:
Effective activities:
• Bring meaning, purpose, joy and hope to the
person’s life
• Use the person’s skills and abilities
• Give the person a sense of normalcy
• Involve family and friends
• Are dignified and appropriate for adults
• Are enjoyable

10 quick tips for activities at home
  1. Be flexible and patient
  2. Encourage involvement in daily life
  3. Avoid correcting the person
  4. Help the person remain as independent as possible
  5. Offer opportunities for choice
  6. Simplify instructions
  7. Establish a familiar routine
  8. Respond to the person’s feelings
  9. Simplify, structure and supervise
  10. Provide encouragement and praise

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Minimizing Risks to Alzheimers

I read an interesting article exposing factors that we may be able to influence to minimize our risks of Alzheimer's disease; the complete article was published at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_causes_risk_factors.asp#whatyoucando 
The first suggestion is to protect your head from head trauma: "There may be a strong link between serious head injury and future risk of Alzheimer’s, especially when trauma occurs repeatedly or involves loss of consciousness. Protect your brain by buckling your seat belt, wearing your helmet when participating in sports, and “fall-proofing” your home."

The second suggestion is to take care of your heart: "Growing evidence links brain health to heart health...The risk of developing Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia appears to be increased by many conditions that damage the heart or blood vessels. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol."

The third suggestion offered is to take care of your body: "Other lines of evidence suggest that strategies for overall healthy aging may help keep your brain as well as your body fit. These strategies may even offer some protection against developing Alzheimer’s or related disorders. Try to keep your weight within recommended guidelines, avoid tobacco and excess alcohol, stay socially connected, and exercise both your body and mind."

So, let's break it down. Here are some practical steps we can take that may help us minimize our risks of Alzheimers.
  1. Protect your head from trauma.
  2. Eat healthy to protect your heart and avoid foods high in cholesterol and fat. Instead eat foods rich with antioxidant levels; like: spinach, raisins, blueberries, brussels sprouts, broccoli, blackberries, beets, red bell peppers, prunes, cherries, oranges, or corn. You might also try to take in more fish, like: halibut, salmon,or tuna. Nuts can be beneficial too: try eating more almonds, pecans, or walnuts. (For a fuller list, read: http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_adopt_a_brain_healthy_diet.asp)
  3. Finally, as recommended above: "avoid tobacco and excess alcohol, stay socially connected, and exercise both your body and mind." Plan routine walks with friends or enjoy evening strolls with loved ones.
We can't always control our genetics or family history...but there are some things we can do that may help. Choose a few above and commit to embracing gradual life changes to help influence your overall health. Next week, we'll explore a little more about Parkinson's disease.

For more helpful hints on Alzheimers visit: http://www.alz.org