Tag Archives: caregiver health

Independence Day for Caregivers

Our loved ones rely on us. We want to be there for them, but caregivers need some independence, too. I’m not asking for fireworks and cannons. An hour laughing with friends can feel revolutionary. Can someone help you enjoy a bit of precious liberty?

Between the Pond and the Woods


My sister is the hero who allowed me to reclaim some independence. She’s stepped in on key occasions to help provide needed respite. Two weeks ago I was able to spend a day in New York City for the annual Yoga in Times Square celebration. This is the second year I’ve gone to NYC on the Summer Solstice to throw my yoga mat down in the middle of one of America’s busiest streets. The photo above shows the marquee of One Times Square, where the ball drops to mark the start of each New Year. On the Solstice, the City of New York blocks streets around the Square so thousands of people can practice yoga with others arriving from all parts of the world.

Although the Solstice fell two weeks before the Fourth of July, that day felt like my own personal Independence Day. The night before the solstice, my sister drove to my house to serve as temporary caregiver for my mom. I drove away early on Sunday morning and travelled two hours to the city. There were no traffic problems and I found a free parking space on a street in mid-town Manhattan. I felt like I’d won the lottery. My yoga class was wonderful and I got to visit some New York friends I rarely get to see.

Doing yoga with thirty thousand other people may not seem like the right kind of break for you. In fact, it may not sound relaxing at all. But I assure you that my single day of liberty re-charged me fully — on the physical and emotional level. I returned to my caregiver duties feeling much stronger and more compassionate. I hope that you can identify a sibling, a cousin, or a friend who can help you have your own Independence Day. Find someone you can trust who can give you the minimum break needed to restore your strength and enhance your ability to deliver care. You deserve fireworks and cannons, too, but if you keep your request low-key, you may find you don’t need that other stuff.

Depression and Dementia

My mom’s dementia diagnosis was confirmed years ago. She was plagued with anxiety and depression early on. In those days, I believed dementia was the chicken and depression was the egg. But a study now shows that depression may come first, prompting the development of dementia.

dementia and depression

It’s common for older people to experience some form of depression. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the issues below can incite depression:

  • Traumatic or upsetting events — These can trigger high levels of anxiety that continue long after the event is over.
  • The effects of illnesses or side-effects of medication — Agitation may be caused by pain, hunger or infection, for example.
  • Lack of social support or social isolation — This may occur because the person can no longer get out much.
  • Bereavement — The loss of a spouse or close friend can change a person’s mental health over night.
  • Lack of meaningful things to do — This can cause feelings of boredom and apathy.
  • Feeling stressed or worried — Issues such as money, relationships, or fears about the future can incite stress.
  •  Past history of depression or anxiety
  • A genetic predisposition to depression or anxiety

It’s easy to see how early memory loss could be aggravated by these matters. But  new research from European scientists suggests that people with such signs of depression may be more likely to get dementia.

Pintoa, Oliveiraa, Ribeiroa, and Fonseca at the Psychiatric Clinic of Mental Health in Portugal reviewed evidence which suggests that depression is a risk factor that may precede dementia. Their findings indicate that depression and dementia produce similar changes in the brain. The authors believe that dementia and depression have shared risk factors or “a common pattern of neurological damage.” Root causes for both can include vascular disease, amyloid plaques, and inflammatory changes.

What does this mean for you and the people you love? If someone in your family has been diagnosed with depression, they may be at higher risk for developing dementia. That uncle who lives by himself, the aunt who never goes out, or the caregiver who won’t take a break — they may need help to see the link between their habits and their health.

It’s hard to change our behavior, even when we know something is wrong. But there are good cheap antidotes that can instantly improve our quality of life. Healthy choices include joining a support group, finding a hobby, or participating in musical activities like choirs and dancing. Basic exercise like walking can help a lot. Make a visit, offer a suggestion. The simplest gesture can often make a difference.