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How to spot the signs of depression in older people
We are all prone to feeling a little deflated at times, but when that feeling persists for a long period and begins to affect our quality of life, it’s time to take things more seriously. Older people can be more at risk of becoming depressed, with around one in four people over the age of 65 developing depression at some point in their lives. 

Despite this relatively high proportion of older adults suffering from this condition, a staggering 85 per cent never receive any help from the NHS. This can be for a number of reasons, from refusal to seek help to the condition going unnoticed by caregivers. Recognising the signs of depression and seeking help for the person can mean an earlier intervention, and shorter recovery period. Here’s what you need to know.

What causes depression? 

People older than 65 are more at risk of becoming depressed than younger people, for a variety of reasons. They may feel down due to giving up work, struggling financially or losing a partner or friend. The majority of older people manage to cope remarkably well with these challenges, but for some; depression is a real risk. 

Some of the most commonly identified causes of depression in older adults include: 

· Long term illnesses and failing health: People who are living with a debilitating condition, cognitive decline, chronic pain or disability can often feel depressed about their situation. 

· Bereavements: The death of a friend or family member, in particular a spouse, or a beloved pet can be a trigger for depression. 

· Isolation and loneliness: Suddenly living alone or having a dwindling circle of friends can make depression a higher risk. Similarly, losing driving privileges or no longer being able to participate in favourite activities because of physical challenges can reduce the person’s sense of purpose and negatively affect their outlook on life. 

· Anxiety: Older adults can become anxious for a variety of reasons. Financial worries can mount up, they may be fearful of dying or about their health, or they might find living alone uncomfortable. These fears can quickly develop into depression if not addressed. 

If you or someone you know has experienced some of these issues, being aware of depression symptoms and acting accordingly can help tackle the problem more efficiently. Some medicines can also make older people feel depressed, including beta blockers, blood pressure medication, cholesterol control drugs and steroids. If you or someone you know feels depressed after starting a new medicine, talk to a doctor to see if there is an alternative. 

Signs of depression in older adults 

Clinical depression is more than just feeling a bit down. It’s a persistent, debilitating condition that is hard to shake, and will start to affect many aspects of your life if left untreated. Common symptoms include: 

· Loss of interest in hobbies, social activities and conversations 
· Feelings of hopelessness, despair and of being a ‘burden’ 
· Slowed movement or speech 
· Weight loss, loss of appetite or, in some cases, overeating 
· Increased use of alcohol or drugs 
· Lack of energy, low motivation 
· Neglect of self-care, such as not washing, forgetting medications and not eating 
· Problems with sleep 
· Thoughts of death and suicide 

In younger people, depression can often manifest itself as a sad feeling. However, with older people, this ‘sad’ feeling often doesn’t occur, and instead they will complain of physical pains, a lack of energy and low motivation. Physical complaints such as headaches, arthritis pains and random bodily aches are often the predominant symptom of depression, so keep an eye out for this. 

Depression is a clinical illness, which can be treated with medication and therapy. Older people may be reluctant to seek help, due to the perceived stigma associated with mental health problems which is typical of their generation. However, it’s important to point out that times have moved on, and that our understanding of mental health has improved, so they really don’t need to suffer in silence. 

As active members of the local community, we welcome a variety of visitors to the home to share their enthusiasm, knowledge and experiences with our residents. 

We even have our own mini-bus, enabling residents to take trips to places they’ve long enjoyed visiting or discover new interests locally. Our team know exactly how to provide a fun and engaging fitness and wellbeing programme too. And, of course, family and friends are welcome to join in when visiting.

How to explain dementia to children
Coping with a diagnosis of dementia is tough for all involved, even children. As much as we might think kids can’t cope with knowing the facts, it’s important we communicate in an age appropriate manner so that they are given the chance to understand the changes they will inevitably see. 

It’s natural to want to protect children from painful situations, but if you choose to shut them out, you could be doing more harm than good. Children are often aware of changes in atmospheres, of people feeling tense and of difficulties in the family. Failing to offer an explanation about what’s happening will leave them feeling confused and worried, so it’s important to clarify the situation in an appropriate way. 

The news is likely to be distressing, but it will allow the person to take their time and to come to terms with things. They will also be relieved to know that any unusual behaviour is just the illness, and not personally directed at them. By letting them see how adults cope in a difficult situation, you’ll be equipping them to manage painful emotions better later on in their own lives. 

Talking about dementia 

Here are some top tips for talking about a dementia diagnosis with a child or young person: 

· Use age appropriate language: You know your child and their maturity better than anyone, so start your discussion in the right mental place for them. Don’t dumb down your language if you usually talk to your child on a mature level, and similarly avoid using complicated or confusing words with younger people. 

· Be honest: Don’t be afraid to tell them the hard truth. Dementia does not usually get better, and things may get quite bad as the illness progresses. Tell them how the person might forget who they are, or may think they are someone else. Don’t filter out all the bad bits, because they will only find them harder to cope with later on. 

· Allay their fears: Remember, children aren’t always as logical as us adults, and may let their imagination run away with them. Reassure them that dementia isn’t contagious, nor is the person likely to die any time soon. Ask them what they are afraid of, and don’t laugh if it’s seemingly ridiculous. 

· It’s OK to laugh: Let them know that the person with dementia may sometimes do something silly, and that it’s OK to laugh if they put the milk in the dishwasher or keys in the oven. Let them know it’s not all doom and gloom, and that there will still be plenty of good times to be had with their loved one. 

· Use resources: You’ll find plenty of resources to help you explain dementia to a young person, from leaflets to storybooks and activity sheets, many of which are free. Ask your GP for any sources they might have, and explore online resources at Alzheimer’s Research UK for support in getting the message across. 

Children are often far more resilient than we give them credit for, but they need to be given a chance to get involved. Don’t shut out your child in a bid to protect them, they won’t thank you later. 

Following on from your discussion 

Once the child is aware of the diagnosis and what is likely to happen next, they will need plenty of comfort and reassurance from you. They need to know that you are there for them, no matter how preoccupied or sad you might seem. Giving them a role in the process will make them feel valued and important, and can help them focus their energy on doing something useful. 

Maybe you could ask them to make some large signposts for the home, to help remind your loved one where to go and where things live. Reassure them if the person with dementia says something hurtful that it’s not really what they mean. Let them know that simply spending time with their loved one and showing them care and affection is the most important thing they can do, and remind them how much you appreciate their help and support.

Here at Blenheim House, our approach to Dementia Care is one step at a time. And it works exceptionally well. Whatever stage your loved one is at, we can help you not only manage but make the most of every moment. 

Get in touch today to hear more about our specialist dementia care in Melksham.

Growing older is more fun than you think: 5 reasons not to dread old age
Receding hairlines, tooth loss and ever-increasing wrinkles; getting older has plenty to be fearful of, but is this all there is? It’s a common misconception that growing older brings nothing but poor health, loneliness and misery, but the reality for many can be really quite different. In fact, a recent study in the US found that over 65s are actually less stressed and generally happier with their lives than people in their 20s.

Here at Blenheim House, we firmly believe there is a great deal to look forward to as we age. Here are just a few things you should consider, which might just change your mind about growing old. 

1.You could be healthier, happier and less stressed 

As a general rule, 50 and 60-somethings tend to eat better and exercise more than young people, and generally have lower alcohol consumption too. This could lead to increased fitness, a better body and boosted serotonin levels, keeping us happier and less likely to become depressed as we age. 

2. Finances could be looking rosy 

Most of us will have realised the majority of our earning potential by the time we approach retirement, so with any luck, we’ll be getting a bigger salary than we did in our 20s and 30s. We’ll also be able to look forward to being ‘empty nesters’, and all the extra disposable income that comes with that. We might have paid off our mortgage, or been able to downsize into a smaller home, and therefore have more money to spend on new experiences. 

3. Retirement will be awesome 

No more work! Imagine what you could do with all that spare time. Two thirds of retiree’s say that retirement was better than they imagined, and that they’ve kept busy and entertained despite giving up work. To fully embrace and enjoy your retirement, however, it’s important to ensure you have a good pension pot. Work with a financial advisor to plan your golden years, so that you can really enjoy all that spare time to yourself. 

4. Sleep will no longer be deprived 

According to the Sleep Council, almost half of working age people are getting too few hours sleep. Working patterns mean people need to be in bed relatively early to cope with early starts and, particularly for night owls, this can be hard. Once you retire, you can stay up as late as you like, and lie in for as long as you wish. At last! A sleep regimen that you are fully in control of. 

5. You could choose an amazing care home 

Care homes can be a fulfilling experience; indeed, here at Blenheim House, our residents liken the experience to a high-quality hotel, with quality care and, of course, new friends. Our residents enjoy a whole host of exciting activities, such as monthly celebrity speakers (including stars of the Archers, Radio 4 comedians, novelists and more), and experiences involving animals, music, history and more. They can enjoy their hobbies, welcome visitors and generally make the most of their golden years in a happy, safe environment. 

Ask any one of the older people living at Blenheim House, and they’ll be sure to tell you that life begins at retirement. It’s all part of living, and just another new adventure that, with the right attitude, you can relish and enjoy just as much as you did being young.

Memory Café at Blenheim House Care Home in Melksham
Are you experiencing dementia or any other memory impairment?Why not join our memory café on Saturday the 27th January from 10:30am -12pm, and every following 4th Saturday of the month.Join us for tea & pastries in our wonderful Upper Cut Café, accessing our lovely secure gardens for a stroll.Enjoy sharing meaningful activities with our residents and staff, or just feel free to join us for a coffee & chat, whatever you choose to do!THERE IS NO NEED TO PRE-BOOK, JUST TURN UP, THIS IS A FREE EVENT.Our staff are fully experienced. We work valuing everyone as an individual.
What does the budget have in store for older people?
At the end of last month, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered the budget for the coming financial year. Did you hear it, and if so, what did you think? We’ve pulled out some of the most pertinent facts relating to older people and their care, so that you can be aware of any changes that are likely to affect you. 

Pensions and benefits 

In the budget, it was announced that both the old state pension and the new state pension would be increased by three per cent from next April. For you, that means an increase of £3.65 a week on the old state pension, and £4.80 per week if you’re in receipt of the new state pension. 

If you receive pension credit, the standard rate of guarantee credit will rise by £3.65 per week for single people, and £5.55 if you are a couple. The savings credit will increase by 20p a week for singles and 9p per week for couples. All these changes will take effect in April 2018. 

Pensionable age 

No changes to the state pension age were noted, although you’ll probably remember there was an announcement about this back in the summer. This currently means men are entitled to state pension from age 65, and women are currently entitled from 63 and nine months. The pensionable age for women is gradually increasing from 60 to 65, and by the year 2026 the pensionable age for everyone will be 67. 

Private pensions 

Private pension allowances have been increased, with the lifetime allowance now standing at £1,030,000. This limit is the value of pay-outs you’re allowed to receive from your pension schemes, either as lump sums or as retirement income, without being required to pay additional tax. 

Other benefits 

Most working age benefits were to remain unchanged following the budget announcement. Benefits such as jobseeker allowance have been frozen at last years levels for four years. This is to remain in place until 2020, following the welfare reform and work act of 2016. 

If you’re in receipt of any benefits at all, you’ve probably already heard about the universal credit. This means tested benefit is designed for working age people, and will replace a whole raft of common benefits including the tax credit schemes, jobseekers allowance, housing benefit, income support and many more. 

This benefit is being rolled out to all claimants right now, and will be completed by December 2018. There have, so far, been a number of problems with receiving first payment, with some families being made to wait longer than expected. Measures have been put in place to speed up this process, and from April 2018, housing benefit will continue to be paid until the new universal credit kicks in. 


Personal allowances have increased slightly, from £11,500 to £11,850, and marriage allowance can be used to transfer unused allowance between spouses. A major change to this now is that claims can be made where a spouse has passed away before the claim was complete, and can be backdated for up to four years. 

Another important taxation issue to be aware of is that local authorities will have the right to increase council tax on empty homes from 50 per cent up to 100 per cent. Owners of empty houses could end up paying 200 per cent of the council tax rate as a result. However, if a home is standing empty because the person has gone into hospital or a care home, they won’t be likely to incur the empty homes charge, and in fact may be exempt from council tax altogether. 

Disability and health 

The Disabled Facilities Grant is being increased by £42m next year, giving it a total pot of £473m to spend. This is used to make adaptations to the homes of older people and disabled people, to allow them to live safely in their own homes. £1.2bn is being made available for adult social care next year, although experts have said this still falls short of what is needed to avert the collapse of services across the UK. 

The chancellor also announced more money for the NHS, with £335m being injected over the remainder of this year, and a further £1.6bn in 2018/19.  Notable by its absence was any move to tackle the estimated 34,300 older people who die during the winter because of cold related illnesses. Known as ‘excess winter deaths’ this was the highest figure for the last five years, and seems to be an issue the government would rather overlook than deal with. 

If you care for an older person or have an older relative in your family, be sure to share this news from the recent budget with them.