Depression and Anxiety in the Senior Population

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


September 17, 2019

Mental illness is a serious subject to discuss at any age and can take on a variety of forms over the course of a person’s life. Depression is not simply “feeling sad” or “off” on certain days and anxiety is more than just “being worried.” Although common, depression and anxiety are medical diagnoses that require treatment like any other condition in older adults.


Depression in Aging Adults

Depression is not a normal part of healthy aging; you don’t grow in or out of mental illnesses. Some people struggle with depression their whole lives while others experience the onset after a painful or traumatic experience. According to the American Psychology Association, depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders that seniors experience. 

Growing older inherently involves change. Working adults retire, spouses become widows and widowers, chronic illnesses take away the strength to complete simple, daily tasks, etc. Recovering from these life adjustments can take significant amounts of time and emotional bandwidth. Some older adults adjust after a month or so, but others struggle with their mental state indefinitely moving forward.


Signs of Senior Depression

Depression looks different in older adults than it does for younger individuals. Sadness is usually the feeling or symptom associated with depression, but the signs can be subtler and internally more pervasive for seniors. Senior depression can manifest itself through symptoms such as:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Oversleeping
  • Grumpiness, irritability
  • Reduced appetite
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of joy
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Aches and pains

Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience published a study stating that 69% of people who met the criteria for depression consulted a doctor for aches and pains. Such symptoms may seem typical for aging adults, but symptoms indicate a much deeper condition, not readily apparent. Misdiagnosis happens all too often because the symptoms of depression can seem age-related in nature. 

Depression is more likely to impact people who already struggle with one or more chronic illnesses, which limits their ability to function at full capacity. For instance, depression is a common side effect of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). An interesting fact to note by the Center for Disease Control is the rates of depression in seniors living in a community are low, between <1% and 5%, while those who need in home care increase to 13.5%. Relational connection and companionship are so important for older adults to receive, especially from their caregivers.


Signs of Senior Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are also frequently diagnosed in the senior population. Even the fear of aging itself can become a catalyst for anxiety. Loved ones and caregivers need to be conscious of sensitive topics that may exacerbate anxiety and worry in seniors. 

The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation states anxiety affects up to 20% of older adults and lists some telling signs to look out for:

  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Overly concerned about safety
  • Racing heart, shallow breathing, trembling, nausea, sweating
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscle tension, feeling weak and shaky
  • Hoarding/collecting
  • Depression

Senior anxiety often occurs in tandem with depression. If your loved one is struggling or displaying a combination of the signs above, contact their primary care physician. Worrying, grieving, and being stressed are all normal parts of life; but when disorders are looming under the surface—and go untreated—the quality of life for seniors can drastically drop, leading to poor overall health.


Mental Health Treatment

Mental health is just as important to monitor in older adults as their physical wellbeing. Treatment is widely available by medication and therapy for mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Older adults tend to prefer psychological-based therapies over medicine. Prescribing yet another pill can be defeating to seniors in comparison to personally working with a professional.

Mental Health America has mental health screening tools to quickly and easily determine if symptoms are present for a variety of mental health illnesses. 

Disclaimer: This screening tool can be a helpful resource as a starting point, but a mental health professional should be consulted post-test and not substituted for an online evaluation.


How Can Commonwise Home Care Help?

Home care management services are convenient and give confidence back to families with loved ones who live alone. Talking about mental health is not an easy subject to address, but the side effects that result from untreated mental illnesses are worse than the conversation itself. At Commonwise Home Care, our professional, trained caregivers help support both you and your loved one(s) through the aging process.

We equip our caregivers to provide the emotional, and physical help older adults need. In home care assists seniors with everyday activities, such as meal preparation and medication monitoring, and contribute a meaningful sense of companionship. Our caregivers are here to be the in home support system seniors need to overcome and manage their illnesses, physical or mental. For more information on the Commonwise Home Care difference, call 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.

National Preparedness Month: Senior Emergency Planning

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


September 12, 2019

National Preparedness Month is all about preparing for disasters—natural or not—before they happen. Seniors especially need assistance during emergencies because they aren’t as agile and healthy as younger individuals. Don’t wait for disaster to strike; be proactive, and plan ahead.

The National Council on Aging estimates 80% of adults 65 and older have at least one chronic disease. Disabilities and chronic diseases are both factors when it comes to preparing seniors for emergencies because they each require specific kinds of support. If your loved one has diabetes, they need regular insulin shots administered. If they use the assistance of a wheelchair, that may require a specific vehicle for transportation. 

Preparing seniors for emergencies starts with creating a personalized plan.


Senior Emergency Plan

Hurricane season is in full swing this September with news updates about Hurricane Dorian flooding the media last week. Were you prepared? Natural disasters are less nervewracking and more manageable when a plan of action is in place to follow for senior safety.


Create a Support Network

A collaborative effort of friends, family, and neighbors should be in place to assist seniors in the case of an emergency. Establish a communication process before, during, and after an emergency. Identify people who live close and far away to get in contact with your loved one. A team effort helps in case the designated support person cannot assist for one reason or another.

A neighbor is an ideal contact person for older adults who live alone to provide quick, nearby assistance and even regular check-ins. For situations where phone lines and power is out locally, identify a family member who lives farther out to get in touch with them. Include how the distant contact person will reach your loved one if home phone lines are down; cell phones prove to be helpful in these kinds of scenarios. 


Establish a Transportation Plan

In the event of an evacuation, establish a transportation plan. Decide who is responsible for checking in and how will they communicate with your loved one. Determine how they will assist your senior to leave and arrive safely at a nearby shelter. Work with neighbors if you don’t live close enough to help. If your senior lives in assisted living housing, make sure you know what their process is and where they will transport tenants. 

Do they need special care? Make sure to specify all of your loved one’s medical needs on a care form for easy access in the case of an emergency. Creating a plan of action before a disaster helps streamline the process of getting your loved one from point A to point B, safely. If evacuation is not necessary, creating an at-home emergency supplies kit is essential.


Assemble an Emergency Kit

Emergency kits are a great way to prepare seniors for emergencies in their own homes. Relying on outside support from others can make seniors, especially those who live alone, feel helpless. Stocking their homes with supplies gives seniors a way to feel secure in place in the event of a disaster.

In general, the kit should consist of ample food, water, medical supplies and devices, daily medication doses, batteries, chargers, pet or service animal needs, and important documents—such as the medical card mentioned below. For a more detailed list of items to include in an emergency supply kit, read our blog on preparing seniors for severe weather.


Complete a Personal Medical Card

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has created an editable, PDF medical information card for seniors or their caregivers to fill out online and print to keep on hand. Include assistive device styles and serial numbers as well as service animal instructions.

Make copies of Medicaid, Medicare, other insurance cards, ID’s, and additional medical documents to keep on hand with your completed medical card. Documented information provides easy access to emergency responders and caregivers about important details regarding your loved one’s health needs at all times. 


How Can Home Care Help?

Emergency preparation can be an anxiety-inducing conversation, but at Commonwise Home Care, our caregivers make it easy. Putting a plan in place will prove to be immensely helpful in the long run to avoid last-minute stressors. Our caregivers are trained professionals who are prepared to handle anything from daily activities to weather-related, medical, or other emergencies. In home care can assist seniors in the planning process to give them confidence in the case of a crisis.

Senior care support is also available for everyday needs, such as meal preparation and medication monitoring, as well as companionship. Our caregivers provide compassionate care and respect to those we serve. Home care management services provided by a professional caregiver gives you and your loved one(s) peace of mind; our priority is caring first.

For more information on the Commonwise Home Care difference, call 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.

Healthy Aging Month Senior Wellness in September

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


September 5, 2019

September is a beautiful time of year on the East Coast. The sweltering hot, humid weather from summer starts to cool off, and fall is in the air. Not only does September hold the first day of autumn, but it’s also hailed as the “Healthy Aging Month” of the year.

Thankfully, we live in a day and age where healthy aging is made possible by advances in modern medicine and technology. Having said that, we tend to overlook the simplest activities that provide significant benefits to our daily health.

Healthy Aging for Seniors in September

Healthy aging should not be a stressful thought; age is just a number after all. Health is a culmination of mental, physical, emotional, and social well-being. Healthy Aging Month is an opportunity to celebrate the positive aspects of growing older and encourage aging adults to prioritize their wellness.

Stimulate Your Brain

Everyone knows eating right is one way to stay in good health, but feeding your brain with healthy activities is just as important. Play memory games to keep your mind young and improve short and long-term memory. Sudoku puzzles are a great, analytical workout for your brain testing strategy (and patience). Crossword puzzles test spelling and critical thinking. Read last month’s blog on improving brain health for more tips.

Research has shown that even normal activities, such as reading and writing, provide fantastic health benefits at every stage in life. One study found that those who engaged in mentally stimulating activities daily showed 48% less cognitive and mental decline compared to those who did not. Neurologists Vemuri and Mormino write, “read more books, write more, and do activities that keep your brain busy irrespective of your age.”

Channel Your Inner Artist

On the same note as finding activities that stimulate the brain, creativity is a medicine in its own right. Take a music class to learn a new instrument or sign up for a local art class–it’s never too late to learn a new skill or invest in a new hobby. Go to an art supplies store and pick up a canvas and some acrylic paint. Purchase a craft set with directions and supplies included. Make homemade cards or stationary.

I spoke with an elderly woman the other day who saw a poster for an art competition and thought, “Why not?” She went to the store for supplies and started creating. Maybe she won, or perhaps she didn’t. Either way, she challenged herself and was set on enjoying the process. Find new ways to get inspired and invest in activities that give you a creative outlet whether you share them with the world or not.

Schedule Your Social Life

Life is better when spent together. Isolation breeds mental illness, so go get some fresh air with a friend. You could invite a neighbor on a walk, schedule a lunch date, or volunteer your time somewhere. Go out to the grocery store to be around people, pick up some healthy snacks, and get some exercise. Embrace your age; don’t let it dictate your day.

If you don’t want to leave your house for social activities, let them come to you. Invite friends, family, or neighbors over for a game night or organize a lighthearted bake-off. Spending quality time with others gives you something to look forward to and can fill up your calendar quickly. Call a friend, family member, or even grandchild to spend some time with you today. People are genuinely invaluable to aging well.

Stay Active

Physical activity is a primary way of keeping your body healthy and happy. Even small, daily exercises such as walks, calf raises, curling soup cans, and sitting down and standing up from a chair can be immeasurably helpful to your muscles. A simple activity to start this month is walking outside to get your mail. While you are outside, you may even get your daily dose of Vitamin D.

If possible, don’t restrict yourself to your home or living space. The world is wide and there are places to explore! Use this month as an opportunity to try new things, engage your brain, stay social, and make it a point to be active each day. Don’t let age hold you back. Do the things you want to do, but adapt them as needed to fit your needs.

Aging Well with Commonwise Home Care

Caregivers improve the quality of life for older adults by enabling them to visit more places, try new experiences, and become more active in their daily lives. In home senior care gives seniors the ability to go places and do things they were not able to before. Have a destination or activity in mind? Let your caregiver know so we can make each day a memorable one.

Commonwise Home Care only hires the best, most compassionate caregivers who have your loved one’s best interest in mind. Our caregivers offer seniors the support of companionship along with practical services such as meal preparation and medication monitoring. For more information on how Commonwise Home Care can assist with senior care management, please call 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.

5 Ways to Help Seniors Keep Life Simple

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


August 22, 2019

A collection of untidy items lying around the house not only creates chaos for seniors, but too much clutter can become a safety hazard. Clutter can lead to misplaced or unpaid bills, forgotten medications, and increase the risk of falls. Minimizing belongings might be a hard adjustment for some seniors, but it can prevent future accidents in the long run.

Home care is a great way to help seniors stay on top of daily matters. Let’s review some steps you can take today to help your loved one simplify their life.

5 Ways for Seniors to Simplify

Initially, your loved one might be opposed to the thought of minimizing or decluttering. Remember to be kind and patient in the process. Approach the subject objectively and state your concerns about the health hazards the full house poses to their everyday life. Once they agree, take it slow and start with small steps.
1. Go Paperless
Everyone’s house tends to have a collective place where mail accumulates; on the kitchen counter, desk, coffee table. Seniors increase the chance of bills going unpaid, and utilities run the risk of being turned off when clutter rules the house.

Reduce the amount of mail by signing up seniors for online billing. Work with seniors directly or the person who manages their finances to set up autopay. Not only does electronic bill pay reduce paper clutter, but it guarantees bills are paid on time. Memory care, provided by a professional caregiver, is also a helpful resource as seniors age and become more forgetful.

2. Organize Medications 

Regularly organizing medications can become a struggle for seniors—too many bottles, varying doses, specific directions, etc. All of the medication seniors are prescribed can be difficult for them to remember to take on their own. Both overdosing and under-dosing can be fatal and result from poor medication management. Caregivers need to be cognizant of the medication doses and common drug interactions between prescriptions to serve seniors well.

Review your loved one’s medications often as well as update their list of active physicians. Sort through all of the medicines being stored in your loved one’s home and properly dispose of all expired prescriptions. Set up a weekly pillbox to help seniors organize their daily doses and remind them of what they have already taken.

3. Reveal the Root Issue

Some people tend to hold on to things longer and more frequently than others. Seniors typically have a higher risk of being hoarders, which can be onset by several behaviors, including OCD, depression, and loneliness. According to Dozier and Ayers’ (2014) article, Hoarding in Late Life, “Older adults with HD [Hoarding Disorder] are at increased risk for falling, fires and mold in the home, poor hygiene and nutrition, and medical problems.”

The decluttering process can be overwhelming for seniors and change is never comfortable. Be sure to move at a slow pace and work closely with seniors throughout the whole process. Schedule a few days, depending on the amount of clutter, to clean up the house. Emotionally support seniors as they learn to let things go while also being aware of the sentimental value certain items may carry.

4. Ask for Help

If there is too much clutter, and you are not sure where to start, it might be helpful to consult a professional organizer. A psychologist or counselor may also be a valuable, professional resource if the situation deems necessary. Use the contacts around you by asking family and friends if they have any preferable recommendations or referrals.

Always talk with your loved one about how they feel about getting professional help with the project. Stay empathetic and understanding about how difficult change can be. Reassure loved ones that you have their best interest in mind and will walk with them throughout each phase of the simplification process.

5. Downsize

Many seniors simply have too much space to work with. Living alone in a multi-level, single-family home can require significant upkeep. Walking up and down the stairs causes fall hazards, tending the landscape on hot days quickly leads to dehydration, and the overall size of the house is daunting to clean and manage alone.

Explore the possibility of finding a condo, townhome, or, if appropriate, a senior living community. Start a conversation about your loved one’s feelings around the idea of moving, but approach the subject gently. Again, change can be complicated and create dissension if not addressed appropriately. Do not pressure seniors into selling their home. Genuinely express your concerns and suggestions to increase their quality of life.

How Can Senior Home Care Help?

Aging in place is the preference of most seniors, but the desire to stay put does not come without challenges. A professional, trained caregiver can help seniors live in a safer home environment and even provide Alzheimer’s care to mediate the health hazards caused by forgetfulness.

Senior care support can aid in services such as light housekeeping, bill pay, pet care, medication management, and companionship. For more information on how Commonwise Home Care can help simplify senior living, call 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine. 

How to Help Seniors Manage Psoriasis Arthritis

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


August 15, 2019

According to The National Psoriasis Foundation, approximately 30% of people who are diagnosed with Psoriasis will develop Psoriasis Arthritis (PsA). Unfortunately, seniors are not often diagnosed as quickly as they should be with Psoriasis. When there is a delay in treatment, the chance of developing PsA is much higher.

3 Ways to Manage Senior Psoriasis Arthritis

If you or a loved one has Psoriasis, you know there are different levels of severity to the skin condition. Similarly, PsA has mild to severe levels depending on how many joints it has affected. No matter where your Psoriasis may fall in the spectrum, there are a few ways to help manage the symptoms associated with it.

1. Pain Management

Inflammation brought on by Psoriasis or PsA can have short- and long-term effects on the joints such as swelling, pain, and irreversible damage. A few options are available for those suffering from Psoriasis to help manage the pain and accompanied inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory Medications

Over the counter medications, such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin, can help reduce the swelling of joints as well as decrease pain and stiffness. Speak with your doctor before starting any new medications as they may have interactions with other prescriptions or illnesses. Let your doctor know if these medications are not helping; they may be able to prescribe something stronger or more effective.


When someone has a severe case of PsA or over the counter medications aren’t helping, a doctor may prescribe certain antidepressants. Antidepressants can reduce sensitivity to pain. Other medications used for neurological pain may also be made available as an option in certain situations.

Acupuncture and Meditation

Since PsA flare-ups can be caused by stress, some may find relief by controlling their anxiety and stress levels. Acupuncture and meditation can help seniors find peace and be mindful, but not overwhelmed, by the stressors in their lives.

Please note: no research has been done to prove acupuncture helps with PsA, but you can read more about the treatment benefits here.

2. Exercise

As we get older, physical activity becomes increasingly difficult. When living with a condition, such as PsA, a senior’s ability to move can be decreased even more. Physical restrictions can lead to other illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Simple exercises can help increase muscle mass, thereby limiting the stress on senior’s joints. Some exercise examples are listed below:

  • Walking. A senior who can walk at least 10 minutes a day (e.g. around the mall, track, or neighborhood) can help build joint flexibility.
  • Yoga. Yoga can help stretch out muscles and decrease stress. Chair yoga is designed to help those who have limited ability to get on the floor.
  • Range of Motion. Exercises that allow seniors to stretch out their arms and legs also provides flexibility to the joints. Circling arms around while sitting in a chair is one way seniors can stretch out.
  • Swimming. Swimming can help build strength, relax joints and sore muscles. The water helps support the body while exercising to relieve pressure and stress on the joints.

3. Household Modifications

When a senior has been diagnosed with PsA, a few changes should be made in their home. Small changes can help seniors who suffer from mild to severe cases of Psoriasis from exacerbating their symptoms. Consider the following list to modify in your own or your loved one’s home:

  • Ask for help or refrain from lifting heavy items.
  • Limit or get rid of rugs to prevent falls.
  • Install grab bars in the bathroom by the shower and toilet.
  • Install a raised toilet seat to make getting up and down easier.
  • Reduce clutter to navigate around the house easily.
  • Alter the height of any chairs or desks a senior may use.

How Can Senior Home Care Help?

Living with Psoriasis Arthritis can be more manageable with the help of a professional caregiver. In home care can assist seniors with services such as meal preparation, medication monitoring, transfers, and companionship. These are just a short list of all the services offered by Commonwise Home Care to help make sure your loved one is healthy and safe.

For more information on how Commonwise Home Care can assist with senior care management, please call 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.

Cataract Awareness Month: How Cataracts Affect Seniors

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


August 8, 2019

August is Cataract Awareness Month, and as one of the dominant eye problems in the senior population, we want to provide more information on this condition.

Twenty-five million people over the age of 40 are suffering from some stage of cataracts. According to See International, by the age of 75, around 70% of people will develop cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness/loss of eyesight in the senior population.

How Do Cataracts Affect Seniors?

Cataracts are when the lens inside your eye becomes cloudy. As a result, things seem foggy and less colorful than they truly are. When cataracts are far along, the cloudiness inside your eye can be visible from the outside too. Some symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Seeing double.
  • Seeing bright colors as faded or with a yellow tint.
  • Poor night vision.
  • Needing more light to read.
  • Eyes being extra sensitive to light.

As senior cataracts develop, they can increase the risk of a fall as well as other injuries. Vision impairment results in low functionality daily and can be very discouraging. Precautions should be taken to mitigate the risks that cataracts pose to the senior population.

Steps to Slow Down Cataracts

Over time, the lenses in our eyes begin to wear down. Since physical wear and tear on our bodies is a natural part of the aging process, preventing cataracts from happening is a challenge. However, preventing early eye deterioration or severe cataract progression is possible.

1. Protect Your Eyes From Direct Sunlight

Sunglasses should be worn to block out the sun’s harmful UV rays in the same way we apply sunscreen to protect our skin from sun damage. Look for both sunglasses and regular glasses with anti-UV coating on their lenses. Remember, even on a cloudy day, the sun’s rays are still dangerous. Wearing sunglasses in the car is also important because windows do not do enough to block UV rays.

2. Keep Close Watch On Your Health

Certain diseases, such as diabetes, can lead to cataracts. Smoking and environmental stressors, such as unprotected eye exposure to the sun, can also play a role in cataract development. Work with your physician to manage each disease and personal health concern properly. Be sure to attend follow up medical appointments so your doctor can monitor you. Always ask questions. If you are diagnosed with a new disease, ask how the condition may affect your body in the long run.

3. Eat Foods To Help You “C” Better

Did you know there are eye-healthy foods? Vitamin C is an excellent source of antioxidants to feed your eyes and lower the risk of cataracts. Look for colorful foods. Kale, sweet potatoes, and carrots are a great source of beta carotene. Our bodies convert beta carotene into vitamin A, which reduces the risk of eye infections, dry eyes, and night blindness, according to Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN.

Next time you go grocery shopping, pick up Healthline’s seven best foods for healthy eyes:

  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Dairy
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Oranges

4. Yearly Eye Exams

Yearly eye exams are critical to gauging how your eye health is progressing. Regularly seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist can help identify cataracts and other eye diseases early on. If you have a family history of cataracts, they can be hereditary, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor.

5. Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is very common, especially for seniors. If your eye doctor identifies that you have cataracts, please do not wait and hope it gets better. The degeneration of your eyes has already begun and must be addressed quickly. Moving forward with cataract surgery earlier than later can prevent loss of vision for the long term, improve your quality of life, and reduce future accidents.

How Can Senior Home Care Help?

Cataracts can affect many different aspects of our lives. When our vision is impaired, we can lose independence, increase the risk of an accident, and lead to decreased physical activity. Maintaining healthy eyes by regularly seeing an optometrist, eating right, and wearing sun protection are all proactive ways to prevent cataracts. Commonwise Home Care also provides home care management services to help keep these health tips on track.

A professional, trained caregiver is a valuable asset to the health and well-being of seniors. Senior home care support can aid in services such as appointment setting and transportation, medication monitoring, and companionship. Home care services provided by a professional caregiver ensure your loved one is taken care of and cared for. For more information on how Commonwise Home Care can help with senior home care services, call 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.