Monthly Archives: August 2013

11 Warning Signs of Depression

Do you (or someone you’re concerned about) really have depression, or is it a case of the blues? It’s not always easy to tell the difference, especially when there’s a good reason to feel down.Grief, losing a job, or a chronic illness can all cause behaviors that might be mistaken for depression, for example.


“Sadness is an emotion, whereas depression is an illness,” says internist and geriatric psychiatrist Ken Robbins of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

True clinical depression differs from the blues in two key ways:

  • Severity: Symptoms are difficult enough to deal with that they interfere with everyday life.
  • Duration: Symptoms are present nearly all the time and last for more than two weeks.

The following 11 warning signs indicate that a person isn’t dealing with normal, transient emotions but with the illness of depression. Note that symptoms vary by individual: A depressed person isn’t likely to have all 11 symptoms at once, and their severity may shift. Depression can be mild or major; either way, if several symptoms are present and last for more than two weeks, you or someone you’re concerned about may need medical help.

1. Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

This symptom looks like a low mood but persists even after time goes by and the cause of the bad mood has cleared up or receded.

What to look for: Blank stares, loss of interest in life, an inability to feel or express happiness or other emotions. Or the person may report just feeling “empty” or “numb.”

What else to know: Often the depressed person isn’t fully aware of this symptom. Try asking, “When’s the last time you were happy?”

2. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or helplessness

In an “Eeyore-like” pessimistic way, the depressed person can’t help feeling that everything is wrong and it’s his or her fault (rather than the fault of the situation or the illness itself). It’s a hallmark sign of major depression. In mild depression, the feelings are similar but less extreme.

How to tell: The person seems unable to see any positive flip side to things or light at the end of the tunnel — and feels little sense of control over choices or events. The person talks and acts as if he or she has no options, can’t see a different path, is useless and meaningless. He or she may fixate on past mistakes, ruminating over them and expressing guilt and self blame.

What else to know: Listen for comments like these: “It’s hopeless.” “I can’t do anything about it.” “I have no choice.” “Nobody cares.” “I’m stuck.” “I should have/could have/ if only….”

3. Frequent crying episodes

The crying may not seem to have a direct or obvious trigger; sobs often come “out of nowhere.” But it’s not normal to cry every day (though the depressed person may not realize this).

What to look for: In between episodes you witness, you may notice red eyes, sniffles, cracking voice, balled-up tissues, and other trails to tears.

What else to know: Not every depressed person cries; in fact, some never do. Research has shown that women are more inclined to this behavior than men. A 2001 University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) study found that crying isn’t related to the severity of depression and that people who cry more may have briefer depressive episodes.

4. Increased agitation and restlessness

Some people with depression fall on the “hyper” end of a spectrum of behaviors, where others are the opposite (see symptom #5).

What to look for: The person may seem unable to relax, more irritable than usual, quicker to anger, full of restless energy, seldom calm. Look for pacing, lashing out at others, frequent standing up and sitting back down.

What else to know: For the depressed person, everything seems magnified. So small slights or irritations aren’t just pebbles in the psyche, they’re giant boulders that get in the way of ordinary life.

5. Fatigue and decreased energy

Typically depressed people who don’t show a lot of agitation and restlessness (symptom #4) experience the flip side of those behaviors — an increased sluggishness and slowness.

What to look for: The person may complain of having no energy, of feeling unproductive, or of “slowing down.” He or she may have quit exercising, seem tired a lot, move more slowly, and have slowed reactions. “To-Do” lists never get finished the way they once did. The person may skip work.

What else to know: Fatigue is a real mind-body problem. Low mood and loss of motivation are partly at work, as well as a physiological depletion of energy — and the two forces keep reinforcing each other.

6. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once pleasurable

This is one of the single most telling symptoms of depression.

What to look for: The person no longer takes pleasure in things that once brought enjoyment, whether the lives of children or grandchildren, a hobby or craft, exercise, cooking, book club, watching sports — or anything. The person may begin to decline invitations, refuse to go out, not want to see friends or family.

What else to know: Some depressed people lose interest in sex. For others, sex functions as a kind of escape, used the same way some depressed people turn to alcohol or drugs.

7. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

“Fuzzy thinking” is often apparent both to the depressed person and his or her family, friends, and colleagues.

How to tell: Various mental slips may become obvious, such as forgetting appointments and errands, making checkbook errors, misplacing objects, forgetting names, avoiding making plans, postponing decisions or deferring them to others. The person may begin writing reminders to himself or herself or take a long time reading (because it’s harder to focus). It may become harder to perform complicated tasks.

What else to know: Cognitive changes associated with depression can look like dementia; in fact, people with dementia are prone to depression, and vice-versa.

8. Sleeping too much or not enough

Disordered sleep and depression are closely related; in some people, depression manifests as insomnia (inability to fall sleep or to stay asleep), while others experience the opposite extreme: All the person feels like doing is sleeping.

What to look for: Regular sleep routines are disrupted; staying up too late or going to bed unusually early; being unable to awaken on time; complaining about a poor night’s sleep; sleeping long hours but fitfully — so the person never feels rested; excessive napping by day.

What else to know: Depression is a leading cause of sleep problems, in part because it interferes with natural biological rhythms.

9. Poor appetite or overeating

Again, the symptom tends to show up as one extreme or the other: The person loses interest in eating or falls into a pattern of constant, emotionally triggered eating.

What to look for: Missed meals, picking at food (especially if this is a change for the person), lying about food intake; loss of interest even in formerly favorite foods, mindless munching and other mindless eating, throwing up after eating; weight gain or weight loss.

What else to know: Depression is a common cause of the eating disorders anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. It’s true both that depression can lead to eating disorders and that people with eating disorders can develop depression.

10. Expressing thoughts of dying or suicide

Depression is one of the conditions most commonly associated with suicide. It begins to seem like a logical way to end the pain and suffering. As many as 90 percent of those who commit suicide are clinically depressed, have a substance abuse problem, or both, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Many people with depression self-medicate with alcohol, which lowers inhibitions and increases the risk for suicide.)

What to look for: The intention may be expressed directly, such as, “I wish I were dead” or “I want to kill myself,” or “I want to end it all.” Or the threats may be indirect: “You’d be better off without me.” “I can’t go on.” “I wish it were over.” “Soon I won’t be around any more.” Also beware of a preoccupation with death or evidence of plans to follow-through, like buying a gun, hoarding pills, giving away money, or suddenly changing a will.

What else to know: If you think someone you love may be suicidal, don’t leave him or her alone. Rather than leaping right to asking, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Robbins says, ask a series of questions that build on one another to assess the person’s state of mind: How are you feeling? Are you feeling depressed? Are you feeling hopeless? Are you wondering if life is worth living? Are you considering suicide? Have you made a plan? Encouraging the person to talk about the intended suicide actually lowers (but doesn’t remove) the risk of following through. Keep the person safe until he or she can be brought to a doctor or therapist. Or call 911 or a suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255).

11. Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t ease with treatment.

Depression is stressful. The physical effects of chronic stress, added to poor self-care brought on by changes in energy levels, sleep, and appetite, can cause an array of health problems.

What to look for: Increased self-medication (through pain relievers, alcohol, or abuse of prescription meds), increased complaints that don’t seem to fit any kind of pattern, increased doctor visits (or refusal to see a doctor despite obvious complaints).

What else to know: Obviously any of these physical signs can be clues to health problems that are unrelated to depression. The point is to notice if these behaviors are clustering with other symptoms of depression — and to get them addressed by a health professional so that they become one (or two, or three, or five) fewer bothersome aspects of the depressed person’s life.

Silver lining: Getting a loved one to a doctor on the pretext of evaluating chronic symptoms allows you to also report the worrisome depressive symptoms, and get them checked out and, if necessary, treated. This is valuable, given that so many people with depression are in denial. After all, the majority of cases of depression, even the most severe, respond to treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.


Dressing Advice When Caring for Someone With Alzheimer’s

In helping a person with Alzheimer’s disease to select and put on clothing, be mindful of the choices he used to make, and try to honor that taste and style. For example, if an elderly man had worn a tie every day to work, but could no longer tie the knot and was frustrated if he could not put the tie on every day, a simple solution is to tie several in advance for him and let him slip the ties on and off. That may be easier for him to do and save you time. Sometimes a “clip on” tie will work also.

NOTE: Clean out closets and drawers so that out of season or difficult to clean clothes will not be temptingly in view.

Most people have favorite colors, textures, and types of clothing–and people with dementia often want to wear the same outfit all the time. If you get duplicates of the items the person always wants to wear, he can still be comfortable when clothes are being washed and you will avoid arguments and explanations.

Lay out clothing in the order in which it should be put on. This will provide a cue to those who are unsure what to put on next, and will generally make the process run more smoothly when you have to assist. You will also not need to leave the person to go find a missing piece.

  • Use clothes that are easy to put on.
  • Store all like clothes together.
  • Use shoes that slip on or fasten with Velcro®.
  • Use socks rather than pantyhose.
  • Use pants and skirts with elastic waistbands.
  • Use bras with front openers.
  • Avoid clothes that have to be put on over the head.
  • Replace buttons with Velcro closures.

Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s disease will undress at inappropriate times. If it is because he is fidgeting and unintentionally opening buttons, consider sweaters without buttons, or a one-piece jump suit. Sometimes, wearing an apron will be a distraction. If things are sewn onto the apron, that will give the person something to touch and feel with his hands, distracting him from trying to remove a shirt or pants.

It may be best to have a frail person or someone with poor balance or a disability sit down when you help dress him, unless of course he is bed bound. If the person has a “weak” side, dress it first.

We Elderly Care – PCA

We Elderly Care is pleased to announce we have passed the rigorous standards set forth by the PCA and is now a member of the Private Care Association.

When you or a loved one requires private in-home care, trust a private care registry. They put the care in your control, because you make the decisions about the type of care you want. An experienced registry will refer you to a caregiver in your area who meets your needs and requirements.  The registry can provide you with information, advice, counsel, consumer tips and a list of qualified caregivers who fit your criteria, but you make the decisions.  Essentially, the PCA’s member registries help clients and caregivers find one another so they can decide on who is best matched to whom.

Such registries are helpful at any time, but they can be especially helpful when time is of the essence.  A registry can help find a reliable caregiver, such as We Elderly Care, on short notice.  Rather than leaving you to your own devices to determine who is qualified and who is not, the PCA registry has already conducted background checks and has verified the references of We Elderly Care before they are referred to you. Our members subscribe to our Code of Ethics, so you can feel more secure in knowing that the registry referring We Elderly Care follows a set of ethical standards.

Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help Diabetes?

Over the centuries, vinegar has been used for many purposes: making pickles, killing weeds, cleaning coffee makers, polishing armor, and dressing salads. It’s also an ancient folk remedy, touted to relieve just about any ailment you can think of.

In recent years, apple cider vinegar has been singled out as an especially helpful health tonic. So it’s now sold in both the condiment and the health supplement aisles of your grocery store. While many of the folk medicine uses of vinegar are unproven (or were disproved), a few do have medical research backing them up. Some small studies have hinted that apple cider vinegar could help with several conditions, including diabetes and obesity.

apple cider vinegar

So does consuming apple cider vinegar make sense for your health? Or is vinegar best used for cleaning stains and dyeing Easter eggs? Here’s a rundown of the facts.

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Vinegar is a product of fermentation. This is a process in which sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast. In the first stage of fermentation, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. The word comes from the French, meaning “sour wine.” While vinegar can be made from all sorts of things — like many fruits, vegetables, and grains — apple cider vinegar comes from pulverized apples.

The main ingredient of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar, is acetic acid. However, vinegars also have other acids, vitamins, mineral salts, and amino acids.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Cure for Everything?

While long used as a folk remedy, apple cider vinegar became well known in the U.S. in the late 1950s, when it was promoted in the best-selling book Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health by D. C. Jarvis. During thealternative medicine boom of recent years, apple cider vinegar and apple cider vinegar pills have become a popular dietary supplement.

Look on the back of a box of supplements — or on the Internet or in the pages of any one of the many books on vinegar and health — and you’ll find some amazing claims. Apple cider vinegar is purported to treat numerous diseases, health conditions, and annoyances. To name a few, it’s supposed to kill head lice, reverse aging, ease digestion, and wash toxins from the body.

Most of these claims have no evidence backing them up. Some — like vinegar’s supposed ability to treat lice or warts — have been studied, and researchers turned up nothing to support their use. Other claims have been backed up by studies, but with a catch: vinegar may work, but not as well as other treatments. For instance, while vinegar is a disinfectant, it doesn’t kill as many germs as common cleaners. And while vinegar does seem to help with jelly fish stings — an old folk remedy — hot water works better.

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