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The holiday season is a festive time, filled with traditions and warm times spent with family and friends. But for many seniors, this joyous time of year can be spoiled by feelings of sadness. Thinking about how quickly time is passing, frustration at not being able to carry on traditions that had always been a part of their holidays, or remembering loved ones that are no longer with them can all contribute to the holiday blues.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

Seasonal blues should be taken just as seriously as any other mood disorder. While some melancholy around the holiday season is normal for seniors, outside help may be necessary if the symptoms don’t go away on their own. Keep an eye out for some of these common symptoms of depression:

  • Increased irritability
  • Increased sadness or frequent crying
  • Lack of interest in self care
  • Lack of interest in social interaction
  • Increased complaints of pain
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns

For the Senior: Combatting Holiday Blues

Try some of these tips for battling the blues and making the most of your holiday season:

  • Volunteer. One of the best ways to lift a low mood is by making others happy in a meaningful way. There are numerous opportunities for volunteering in every community; try contacting your local schools or hospitals for ideas. Especially around the holidays, there are so many ways you can help. 
  • Get out more. Spending time in places or with people you love can help you feel better. Taking walks with a friend or family member is a great way to get some sunshine, exercise, and reconnect with loved ones.
  • Take care of your health. Your physical health plays an enormous role in your mental state. Be sure that you are getting enough sleep and try to eat healthy during the holiday season. Drink responsibly – overindulging will only make you feel worse.
  • Be understanding of yourself. It’s okay not to feel joyous during the holidays. Life doesn't have to be a Hallmark movie. Talk about your feelings when you can, and let go of the guilt.

For the Caregiver: Helping a Loved One Feel Better

  • Include them in the holiday preparations and parties. One of the best ways to help a senior feel better is by getting them involved in the excitement and celebrations. Bake holiday cookies with them, help them prepare a cherished holiday recipe, or offer to drive them to events that they can no longer attend alone. 
  • Listen to their feelings. Encourage them to talk about passed loved ones and their traditions and memories of this time of year. Take the time to peruse family photo albums.
  • Plan for down time. The holiday season can be a noisy and hectic time, which can be overwhelming for the elderly. Plan for quiet time when they can relax and recharge amidst the holiday hullabaloo.
  • Get their caregivers involved. The joyousness of the holidays can be muted, or even nonexistent, when you're in rehab or long term care during that time. Your loved one may be feeling disconnected, especially if it's their first holiday in the facility. Ask their caregivers to keep an eye on them and be extra loving during this time. At Regency Nursing Centers, our incredible nurses, CNAs, and therapists keep the holiday spirit going for each and every resident.
  • Get help. If the symptoms persist or seem to be getting worse, they may need professional help to fight the depression. Encourage your loved one to seek treatment with a psychotherapist who specializes in geriatric care. A combined plan of therapy and medication can do wonders for the quality of life of a depressed senior.

 

To continue our coverage of Alzheimer's disease this month, we're going to talk about the risk factors of the disease.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, however there are medications available to reduce symptoms. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can start these treatments and maintain your quality of life for as long as possible. Knowing you're at risk and keeping an eye out for the first symptoms can help you get a diagnosis early on. That gives you time to try the different available treatments, get your affairs in order, and make more memories with your loved one.

Are you at higher risk of Alzheimers' disease? Read on to find out.

Alzheimer's Disease Risk Factors

The first two risk factors are not really something you can control, and they're the two factors that are the most certain. They are:

  1. Age. Increasing age is the most significant risk factor of Alzheimer's disease. Most cases are diagnosed after age 65, and your risk of developing the disease doubles every five years past that. 
  2. Family history. Having a parent, brother, or sister with Alzheimer's makes you more likely to develop it yourself. Each additional family member with the disease increases your risk. When any disease runs in a family, it could be caused genetic or environmental factors—or both. When it comes to the hereditary factors, researchers have found genes that increase the risk of Alzheimer's. To learn more about genetic research into Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association.

Current Alzheimer's research indicates that Alzheimer's disease is caused by a mix of genes and other risk factors. These include:

  • traumatic brain or head injury
  • heart disease 
  • diabetes
  • history of stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol

As you can see, there is a strong vascular connection to Alzheimer's disease. That's because the brain has a rich network of blood vessels that nourish our brain cells to keep our most vital organ going. Clearly, the best way to elminate this risk factor is to keep your cardiovascular system as healthy as possible. This involves maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Speak to your doctor for specific guidance based on your health and situation. 

You may have heard that aluminum exposure can cause Alzheimer's disease. This is a theory that emerged in the late 1960s as a possible cause of the disease. Studies on the subject have not found any connection between everyday aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's disease, so you can use your aluminum pans without any risk!

Remember that having all the risk factors does not mean you will develop a disease, nor does having none of the risk factors (except age) protect you from Alzheimer's disease. Risk factors just tell you that you have a higher chance of a specific disease, so you can try to reduce those factors you can actually change, and stay vigilent about signs and symptoms. 

In our next post, we'll talk about the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease—and what's just a part of normal aging.

 

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON — About 1 million out of the more than 3.7 million people who logged into HealthCare.gov during the first week of open enrollment submitted applications, the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.

Nearly a half-million of those selected plans.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell called the first week's statistics a "solid start" but noted the government has "a lot of work to do every day between now and Feb. 15," the end of the open enrollment period. A week after the agency came under fire for misstating enrollment figures by including those who signed up for dental plans, Burwell said, "Those numbers have been checked and do not include dental."

Almost half — 48% — of those who chose plans were uninsured, Burwell said. One of the administration's goals during the three-month open enrollment period is to reduce the number of people without insurance. Another goal is encouraging those with insurance to shop around for better deals.

"The fact that a substantial number of people were able to get on HealthCare.gov and pick a plan in the first week shows that the systems are working," said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "That's a big deal when you consider what a mess it all was last fall."

 

As Boomers Become Seniors, Healthcare Technology Demand Grows

With baby boomers all grown up, a new generation of tech-savvy seniors is emerging.

Tech-savvy seniors will begin to enter the healthcare market in the coming years, so the industry needs to prepare for this new type of aging patient. An estimated 3.5 million US citizens a year are expected to reach 65-years-old through 2023, according to an Accenture study. Internet use from 2000 to 2012 tripled for those 65 and older, and doubled among those 50 to 64-years-old, as documented by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

A different study found 73 percent of baby boomers and Generation Xers want to age in their own home, and 95 percent don't think today's technology will allow them to do so. Georgetown University's Global Social Enterprise Initiative and Philips surveyed current and future seniors' attitudes on technology, finding most boomers and Gen Xers skeptical of the technology that awaits them as they enter their senior years.

Information Week: Healthcare

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