As I work with families from week-to-week, I can’t help but notice the number of seniors who are suffering from some form of depression. An unexpected health crisis, followed by rehab and the inability to return home safely, can be a disruptive and daunting reality for just about anyone. As a family member looking on, it is very hard to see a loved one suffer physically, mentally and/or emotionally.
Depression can affect every aspect of life. Dealing with depression can be even more difficult knowing they’ve recently lived life with excitement and vigor. While some depression can be temporary, it’s not usually the case. Let’s take a look at some of the signs and symptoms to be on the look-out for.
Any sudden illness, accident, surgery or chronic decline in overall health can cause an elderly loved one to lose a sense of purpose and slip into depression. Other physical problems such as slowed speech, arthritis, severe pain or worsening headaches are often the predominant symptom of depression in the elderly.
Another early sign of depression is an obvious lack of attention to their personal care. Neglecting to bathe/shower, wear clean clothes, take medications or eat a meal can be surefire signs that your loved one is struggling.
Was your loved one once the life of the party, but now you can barely get them to the events? Did they enjoy certain hobbies once, and now have little or no interest in them any longer? Staying indoors all day and not wanting visitors to come over can be another sign of depression in aging seniors.
Medication Side Effects
Many commonly prescribed medications have multiple side-effects and depression can be one of them. If they are taking more than one medication, the problem could be compounded. If you feel you or your loved one’s medication may be adding to their depression, talk to your doctor to see if you can change the dosage or switch to another form.
Sudden Mood swings.
If your loved one is happy and energetic one minute, but somber and sad the next, there could be an underlying issue, especially if you feel like the change in mood wasn’t really brought on by anything specific. Keep an eye out for sadness, feelings of despair, unworthiness or being a burden. Be sure there hasn’t been an increased use of alcohol or other vices and listen for concerns about death and dying or thoughts of suicide.
Whether it’s the loss of independence, health or mobility; whether they’ve lost a loved one, a pet or a familiar home environment, loneliness and depression is quite common. It is vitally important to help them stay connected and engaged in life activities. Help them to join a book club, bring a meal and family over, maybe visit a local senior center together and seek outdoor activities. Small steps can make a big difference.
Whatever you choose to do, get others involved and create a support network. Remind them how much they are loved and cared for, but do so without smothering them. Be conscious of their need to remain independent. If they can handle their daily tasks, let them, but offer help in areas that makes sense based on their current physical and mental ability.
In general, you do not want to let your loved one suffer or think that they are suffering alone. If you see any signs or symptoms of depression, do not ignore them. While depression can happen to any of us, learning the signs and being prepared to help a senior cope with life’s changes can make their “Golden Years” a much happier and healthier time.
About the Author
Since 2008, Anthony Black has provided free professional guidance and insight to local seniors and their families who are searching for assisted living, memory care and independent living in Arizona. His hands-on approach and personal attention to the details of each case has helped hundreds of families transition their loved ones to a clean, safe, appropriate living environment.
The decision to move a loved one to a safe independent or assisted living community brings up a lot of emotions. Deciding to leave the familiar surroundings and comfort of ‘home’ is usually a challenge. Researching, touring and selecting the best facility for your loved one can be a very overwhelming and time-consuming process. Although a ton of paperwork and the actual move-in will soon follow, the toughest hurdle for family members is not on any “to do” list; and that hurdle is called ‘guilt’. In my experience, guilt it is one of the biggest and most common emotional challenges faced by family member
Before, during or after the transition, guilt will most certainly show up. The transition can be especially challenging if your loved one stokes the fiery furnace of guilt while being resistant from the start. But even when you have the cooperation of a loved one and they understand the decision, guilt can still show up unexpectedly.
Here are a few insights to help combat these feelings that could prove useful in the process.
- Recognize feelings of guilt. Understanding the source of your guilty feelings and remind yourself of the reality of the situation. This is not anyone’s ‘fault’.
- Be realistic Does your loved one have a serious health condition or need a much higher level of care than is possible for you to provide? If your health is suffering or someone could get injured in an effort to provide care, you shouldn’t feel guilty for making a change.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. You haven’t failed as a caregiver. You’ve made a smart decision to get the help they need. You are taking care of your loved one by doing the right thing. Guilt sounds like, “I should have done…” or “I could have…” and “I promised them…”
- Seek Support Gather as many supportive family members and friends that you can to help you stay positive during this process. Contact an advocate like VIP Senior Placement, where experienced professionals can help lighten the load and lend helpful insight with an understanding heart.
- Be OK with everything being OK. Guilt can show up because we set our expectations too high, make a decision, then manage to ‘disappoint’ ourselves. Keep your expectations reasonable and be “ok” with your decision. Remember, you’re doing your best you and you can’t plan for every possible outcome.
- Give it Time. This transition is life changing. Give your loved one some time to adjust. It’s been our experience that it will take 6-8 weeks to feel more at home and get comfortable. During this “transition period”, give them space, but don’t abandon them. Your loved one will adjust as the days go by. Keep in touch with the caregiving and administrative staff, as everyone is adjusting to one another.
VIP Senior Placement is a free, professional service that specializes in helping you locate the perfect assisted living or appropriate senior housing for your aging loved one. We provide a hands-on, strategic approach to help families locate and understand the options surrounding the assisted living environment while transitioning their loved one with confidence. #AssistedLiving #IndependentLiving #MemoryCare #arizonaassistedliving #seniorplacement
The Holiday Talk
The holiday season is upon us once again and that means spending time and making memories with family and friends. It is also a very good time to check in with your aging senior and hold a family discussion around whether they may be ready for independent living or assisted living in Arizona. While it might not be time to move right away, having the discussion in advance will make it easier when the time does come.
At VIP Senior Placement, we realize an honest, open discussion about this subject may not be easy on families. As we age, it becomes more difficult to admit when we need help or to talk about down-sizing from home and relocating to assisted living. The connection of families from across the miles at this time of year can set a warm tone and make this important conversation a little easier.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Follow their lead and listen carefully to what is important to them as they express their perceived care needs.
- Regardless of your past relationship with them, respect their position and take it slow.
- Be prepared to provide some information about some local care options. This will help put your loved ones at ease.
- Involve as many family members as possible to help support this important conversation.
Senior living services can make life easier for everyone involved and meet the changing demands of your aging loved one. There are several quality senior living communities that offer 24/7 care in Scottsdale, Mesa, Phoenix and the surrounding areas. There’s no reason to wait. Learn the options available to you today, in advance of “the event” that makes this conversation not only more difficult, but mandatory.
Contact a VIP Senior Placement Advisor to help you determine the best options for your aging senior.
At VIP Senior Placement, we know that seniors and their families can encounter a lot of complex issues when it becomes time to leave home and relocate to assisted living. Every week I meet with aging seniors and their families who are blindsided with the daunting task of relocating to assisted living from a rehab, hospital or current home. I have yet to meet someone who is “excited” or “looking forward” to the change they are about to encounter and a new living environment. What’s more, I have yet to meet a family who knew where to start and had plenty of time on their hands to achieve the task. This is why we strive to be an advocate for families at this sensitive and pivotal time.
Our personal service is absolutely free and we will be there through the entire process to offer advice, guidance, insight and education about the local senior housing market, so you can make a “better” informed decision. Find out more at www.vipseniorplacement.com and put our years of industry experience and knowledge of the local market to work for you and your family.
Have you ever heard of the “Aid and Attendance Veteran’s Pension Benefit”?
I have recently posed this question to some elderly Veterans at a local “Senior Expo” here in Mesa. It was alarming to discover how many were completely unaware of this veteran’s pension benefit and what it was all about. We’ve all heard of the ‘Unknown Soldier”. I like to call this one the “Unknown Benefit”. The experience I had this week inspired me to write this blog for the men and women who gave so much to protect our country’s freedoms, to help them learn a little more about the “Unknown Benefit”.
What is Aid and Attendance?
Aid and Attendance is a veteran’s pension benefit specifically designed for those who served during wartime and today require the “aid and attendance’ of a caregiver to perform daily living activities. Those who are disabled, blind, etc. and/or currently living in a nursing home or assisted living in Arizona are likely the best candidates. If both husband and wife are veterans, the benefit can help reduce the overall cost of senior care, especially if they require the care and supervision found at senior housing options like assisted living or memory care.
How Do I Qualify for Aid and Attendance Veteran’s Pension Benefit?
According to www.veteranaid.org, you must submit an application and there are basic qualifications that must be met, both medically and financially.
“The application will require a medical evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, and net income, along with out-of-pocket medical expenses.”
For the medical side, minimally, you must require assistance with activities of daily living (ADL’s) including but not limited to:
- Eating, etc.
Financially, the qualifications can be a little gray, but in general, your total assets must be less than $80,000, not counting the house and car. The benefit can be put towards monthly expenses for assisted living, in-home care or other medical and living expenses. Payments are made directly monthly like a social security by the U.S. Treasury Department.
How Do I Apply for Aids and Attendance?
As should be expected, the application process can be both a paperwork and bureaucratic nightmare. In most cases, the approval process can take 6-9 months with those over the age of 90 able to ask for their application to be expedited . Here are a couple links for printable forms to submit for wartime veterans who have served 90 days or more, and this link is for the surviving spouse of wartime veterans. Despite the lengthy process, the really good news is that when you are finally approved, your benefits are back paid retro-active to your application date.
How Much Can I Receive From This Benefit?
According to the latest information released concerning the 2017 rates for Aid and Attendance, the benefit for a wartime vet with a living spouse could be as much as $2,100/per month. A single, surviving spouse could receive as much as $1,100/per month to help with their on-going care needs.
Where Can I Get More Details about the Aid and Attendance Veterans Benefit?
There is a free, one-minute questionnaire available that is helpful if you are trying to figure out if you or a loved one may qualify. Visit www.veteranaid.org for more details on the application process and complete step-by-step instructions on how to apply for Aids and Attendance.
In honor of all living and deceased veterans who have fought for our freedom, I want to extend my hand and thank you for your service on this Veteran’s Day 2017. Thank you. It’s a privilege to give back where I can and assist our elderly vets and help their families learn more about the government benefits for veterans.