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Mental Health Awareness Month: Depression and Dementia

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we would be remiss if we didn’t take some time to discuss how mental health issues can affect those living with dementia and their caregivers. Depression is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s. Experts estimate that up to 40 percent of people living with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from significant depression. Identifying depression in someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s isn’t always easy, but it’s important that family and caregivers keep an eye out for the symptoms of depression and seek help if they suspect their loved one may be depressed. Many symptoms of Alzheimer’s mimic the symptoms of depression, such as apathy, social withdrawal, isolation, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in activities. Someone with dementia who is also suffering from depression may experience sadness, hopelessness and guilt, among other feelings, but they will often find it difficult to articulate these feelings due to cognitive impairment as a result of the dementia. Depression in someone with dementia may be less severe, or have symptoms that come and go. No matter how severe, if you notice any signs of depression in your loved one, discuss them with your loved one’s primary care provider. Diagnosis and treatment of depression can be especially helpful and may improve your loved one’s ability to function and overall sense of well-being. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about getting a referral to a geriatric psychiatrist who specializes in diagnosing and treating depression in senior adults. Diagnosing Depression in Alzheimer’s According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in order for a person with dementia to be diagnosed with depression, he...

The Role of Occupational Therapy in Dementia Care

People living with dementia experience impaired cognition which may be seen in decreased short-term memory, decreased problem solving skills, decreased perceptual skills and personality changes. While there is no “cure” for dementia, various types of therapy may help an individual with dementia live independently as long as possible. April is Occupational Therapy Month and we want to recognize the ways in which occupational therapists can help those living with dementia. First, occupational therapists can educate family members, caregivers and those in the early stages of dementia about the disease and its functional implications. “Although remediation of cognitive performance is not likely, the person may demonstrate improved function through compensation or adaptation. Occupational therapy practitioners also assist care providers to help them cope with this difficult, and yet often rewarding, role.” (aota.org) Through an evaluation of the environment and certain adaptations, occupational therapists can assist someone living with dementia to live in their own homes as long as possible. For those living in long-term care and adult day health settings, occupational therapists can help individuals retain existing function for as long as possible. According to The American Occupational Therapists Association (AOTA) there are various approaches an occupational therapist might use to aid an individual living with dementia. These include: Health Promotion. Focusing on strengths of clients and promoting wellness of care providers to promote maximal performance in preferred activities. Remediation. Restoration of physical skills (range of motion, strength, and endurance) Maintenance. Identify what is working well in the daily routine of the person living with dementia and provide supports to help the individual maintain skills for as long as possible...

Hospice Care: Understanding Your Options

As a caregiver of someone who is living with dementia, you will experience a variety of different care options at the different stages of your loved one’s disease. In the beginning, you may be able to provide care for your loved one in his or her own home. There may be times where you encounter a need for a temporary care arrangement so you can get some rest or take a vacation. Respite care and day respite care are some options that may be available to you. After time and as the dementia progresses, it may become necessary to move your loved one into a residential care facility where your loved one can receive individualized care. In the final stages of dementia, you may encounter hospice as a final care option for your loved one. While it may be unsettling to consider hospice, it can help to understand what hospice is and how it can help your loved one. Hospice is a type of specialized care for individuals facing a life-limiting illness, their families and their caregivers. Hospice care addresses the patient’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs and helps the patient’s family and caregivers provide the care needed. It focuses on comfort and quality of life rather than a cure. The ultimate goal of hospice care is to enable the patient to have an alert, pain free life while living each day as fully as possible. Hospice is a sensitive subject, and understandably so. Despite the growth in awareness in hospice care over the last several years, there continues to be huge misconceptions about hospice. Hospice can improve...

Dementia Care: Tips for Communicating with Your Loved One

If you take care of someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, as the conditions worsens, you will most likely begin to notice that your loved one’s ability to participate in conversations, understand what is being said to them and communicate begins to deteriorate. As his or her ability to communicate clearly begins to decline, your loved one can become frustrated or angry. These signs and behaviors may be considered as “red flags” that your loved one has reached the moderate stage of their disease and you will need to change the way you interact with them because what you used to do may become increasingly frustrating and ineffective. There is an art to communicating with someone with moderate to severe dementia, especially a loved one. It’s not easy but it can be learned. Try thinking in terms of “triggers.” There are triggers you want to avoid and triggers you want to connect to, if possible. Here are some “negative triggers” you want to avoid: Avoid asking questions your loved one can’t answer. Don’t ask if they remember someone or something and don’t ask them names. If they are asked these questions and don’t remember, your loved one may feel he or she has to pretend to know the answer, or they may become agitated or angry. Neither is a good option. Instead, simply tell them who it is. Instead of asking “Do you remember who this is,” tell them, “this is your granddaughter, Tiffany. You babysat her from the time she was a tiny baby. She’s all grown up now.” Instead of asking open-ended questions, give your loved one...

Tips for Adminstering Medications to Your Loved One with Dementia

If you are providing care for a loved one with dementia, you are no doubt dealing with their medications as well. While this is a major topic to discuss, we will briefly touch on some of the important things to remember when administering medications to your loved one living with dementia. If you have further questions regarding this topic or the issues discussed below, please speak with your loved one’s physician. There are two issues that primarily need to be covered. The first is safety issues regarding medications. The second is actually getting your loved one to take the medications. Here are a few tips from the experts on medication safety both in the home and regarding determining what meds will need to be taken. It is important to recognize that your loved one is probably taking or at least has several medications prescribed for their dementia and various other conditions they may have. Be sure you are coordinating with all care providers. It is also best to have all prescriptions filled by the same pharmacy so that they will catch any drug interactions that would be dangerous to your loved one. Know if your loved one has any drug allergies and if so, to what and what kind of reaction they have to that medication. There is a difference between a true “allergy” which can cause swelling (even in the throat) and difficulty breathing and simple unpleasant “side effects” such as changes in stools or a lack of appetite. Be sure you carry a list of their medications with you when taking them to the doctor, especially new...

The Cottages Senior Living with Mandy Quinn

Featured in New LifeStyles Mandy Quinn is the Executive Vice President for The Cottages Senior Living, which are licensed and certified assisted living communities for persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders. The Cottages are a family owned and operated business with six facilities and locations in multiple cities. During a recent interview with Mandy, she said she mainly deals with the marketing, branding and advertising aspects for The Cottages and has had the business for 14 years now, which she runs with her husband. Read...