By Mary Wassel
September is World Alzheimer’s Month. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior.
Did you know it can affect mental health, too? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, up to 40% of people with Alzheimer’s disease have “significant depression.”
Fortunately, there are ways to help enhance their quality of life and improve these symptoms.
As administrator and case manager at The Borer Memory Life Community, I see first hand the impact that daily activities and environments can have on a resident’s mental health.
Here are a few ways to alleviate depression among those who are living with dementia:
• Pet Therapy: Visits from animals that are part of a pet therapy program can be a perfect way for people to receive the mood-boosting benefits of pet companionship when they are unable to have their own pets full-time. Spending time with an animal can be calming and reduce feelings of sadness and loneliness.
• Music Therapy: The right music can help reduce anxiety and agitation while supporting the ability for older adults with dementia to reminisce, whether they are able to recall specific memories or they simply enjoy a “feeling” that certain music creates. We incorporate music through activities such as live performers, sing-alongs, and music trivia at our memory life communities.
• Calming Environment: To reduce frustration and depression, it can be helpful to create an environment to support the new needs of your loved one. Some simple but very impactful options include adding more natural light inside the home or creating garden areas where older adults can work with their hands or simply sit and enjoy the beauty of nature. At Loretto’s Borer Memory Life Community, we offer a welcoming neighborhood concept and open spaces to give residents a sense of freedom in a safe environment and specialized decor to help them recognize their surroundings.
• Social Interaction: Feeling isolated can be a contributing factor to depression. Creating opportunities for your loved one to interact, whether through a communal activity such as gardening, an exercise class, or even a support group, can help to reduce their loneliness.
As a caregiver, it is vital to take care of your own mental health and remember you don’t have to care for your loved one alone. Loretto’s resident-centric focus, stimulating environments, and positive energy will enhance your loved one’s quality of life and optimize your time together.
Mary Wassel is administrator and case manager at The Borer Memory Life Community. Learn more about Loretto’s Memory Life Communities and the rest of our continuum of care at https://lorettocny.org