Managing Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Mental Health
America’s workers are living longer than ever before, and many are staying in the workforce past age sixty. Employers are in the position to create a comprehensive culture of health in the workplace that spans a person’s entire working lifetime. This will support all employees by minimizing the impact of chronic disease and other health issues.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Early detection of Alzheimer’s improves access to medical and support services, provides an opportunity to make legal, financial and care plans and may reduce health care costs by delaying placement in a nursing home. Creating a plan in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can help prepare a family to better care for their loved one.
Depression in Older Adults
Healthcare providers may mistake an older adult’s symptoms of depression as just a natural reaction to illness or the life changes that may occur as we age, and therefore not see the depression as something to be treated. Older adults themselves often share this belief and do not seek help because they don’t understand that they could feel better with appropriate treatment.
About 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition and 50% have two or more. Depression is more common in people who also have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer), suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or whose function becomes limited. Depression is also very common among people with Alzheimer’s, but there is treatment available that can make a difference in quality of life.
According to the CDC, here are some signs to look for related to depression:
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Irritability or restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Family and Caregivers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), caregivers provide care to people who need some degree of ongoing assistance with everyday tasks on a regular or daily basis. For many people, providing care for a family member with a chronic illness or a disabling condition can provide a sense of fulfillment, establishment of extended social networks or friendship groups associated with caregiving, and feeling needed and useful.
Informal or unpaid caregiving has also been associated with elevated levels of depression and anxiety, higher use of psychoactive medications, worse self-reported physical health, compromised immune function and increased risk of early death. Because of this, it is important that caregivers are given support and resources to care for themselves as well as their family member.
Supporting Employees in the Workplace
A worksite wellness program is an employee centered approach to improve health outcomes, health behaviors, productivity and morale in the workplace. Wellness programs include a coordinated and comprehensive set of strategies, which promote and support health, safety, physical activity and overall well-being for all employees.
Activities for Older Adults
The economy puts great pressure on workers’ families and their retirement plans, often forcing older workers to postpone retirement and stay in the workforce longer. When planning an employee wellness program, it is important to keep in mind activities that will support your aging population in the workplace.
- Focus on topics related to mental health such as techniques to reduce stress.
- Provide resources through newsletters or email blasts on safety topics such as avoiding occupational back pain.
- Send out messages on healthy eating healthy lifestyle tips for older adults.
- Increase the availability of alternative opportunities for safe, regular physical activity for older adults.
- The Healthy Brain Initiative
- Louisiana Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs
- SHIP: Long-term Care Insurance Guide for LA
- Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline
- For Alzheimer’s training, check out the Alzheimer’s Association Training and Education Center for free online courses, available 24 hours per day.
- Depression and Alzheimer’s
- Let’s Talk
- Basics of Legal Planning
- Legal Plans Brochure
- Money Matters Brochure
- Training: Legal and Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Disease