Understanding Depression

It is very normal to experience emotional ups and downs during our life. We often refer to that as having “the blues”. But when it just won’t go away, you may have depression. Understanding the signs and treatment options is a good start to curing the problem.

With some illnesses the diagnosis will have a specific medical cause, making treatment straightforward and straight out of the text book. If you have diabetes, then you take insulin. If you have appendicitis, you will have to have surgery. But with depression, it is more complicated. Depression is not just the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, and it’s not simply cured with medication. Experts believe that depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. So your lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills matter just as much, if not more, than genetics. However, certain risk factors make you more vulnerable to depression.

Finding the cause

  • Lack of social supportdepression
  • Loneliness
  • Recent stressful life experiences
  • Family history of depression
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Financial strain
  • Early childhood trauma or abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Health problems or chronic pain

When you understand the cause, you can prescribe the treatment and start to overcome the problem.  Perhaps if you are depressed because of a dead end job, the best treatment might be finding a more satisfying career, not taking an antidepressant. If you are new to an area and feeling lonely and sad, finding new friends at work or through a hobby will probably give you more of a mood boost than going to therapy. In such cases, the depression is remedied by changing the situation.

But not all cases of depression are able to be overcome that easily. Just as the symptoms and causes of depression are different in different people, so are the ways to feel better. What works for one person might not work for another, and no one treatment is appropriate in all cases. You may need time to explore all the treatment options for a suffer because the result will vary accordingly. In most cases, the best approach involves a combination of social support, lifestyle changes, emotional skills building, and professional help. Feeling helpless and hopeless is a symptom of depression and not the reality of your situation.

For some sufferers, getting out of “the black hole” just seems impossible and panic may set in. For most cases, just talking about the depression and your emotions will aid in acknowledging the problem and finding a solution. Often it is preferred that you talk to a third party that is not emotionally invested in you. Being isolated and withdrawing from the world will only fuel the problem. Most people are happy to help you talk about a problem and will feel elated that you entrusted them.

Diet, sleep and exercise are positive attributes towards recovery.  Learning to relax and stop stressing about the things you can’t control will help. But most of all, surround yourself with people that care, someone to share the burden, and reassurance that you will get through this and everything will be OK soon.

A combination of medication and therapy may be required to help you overcome the depression.  Use the medication with your doctor’s supervision, but they aren’t necessarily a cure on their own and they come with drawbacks of their own. It might pay to weigh up the benefits v’s the risks and make your assessment then. You are recommended to seek professional assistance if medication alone cannot help.

Types of depression

  • Dysthmia is a type of chronic “low-grade” depression. More days than not, you feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have brief periods of normal mood.
  • Major depression is the darkest hole to fall into and can stay there for months at a time. Often it is reoccurring.
  • Bipolar also known as manic depression, is characterised by cycling mood changes. Episodes of depression alternate with manic episodes, which can include impulsive behaviour, hyperactivity, rapid speech, and little to no sleep. Usually medications is not advised.

The main thing to remember, there is support available and you are not alone. Depression can be debilitating if left untreated but there a thousands of sufferers. You just have to reach out.

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Making Plans For Dementia

Did you know there is currently 47.5 million people living with dementia and by 2050 this number is estimated to triple, so we all should be aware on methods to manage the disease.dementia

Making A Financial Plan. Care for a dementia patient can be financially straining on both the individual and their family. You should consider creating a financial plan by outlining all current and future costs, which often includes personal care supplies, home safety modifications, prescription medications, in-home care services, and more. Professional guidance may also be required to help you recognise future issues, find potential financial resources, identify tax deductions or make sound investment decisions. They all need to be considered and addressed whilst the patient is capable of having an input.

Legal Planning. Another serious consideration and should involve the person with dementia as long as they have legal capacity, which is the ability to understand the meaning, importance and implications of a given legal document and execute by signing. Legal documents signed now will not remove the individual’s rights immediately but will be implemented when they no longer have the legal capacity to make decisions. It is important to work out all legalities in advance of signs or symptoms of cognitive decline. The following are important documents to take into consideration when planning r future legal needs:

  • Power of Attorney – This allows the individual with dementia to appoint another person, the agent, to make financial and other decisions when they are no longer able.
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care document appoints an agent to make health care decisions when the individual is no longer able.
  • Will – A will defines how the estate will be distributed upon death and the distribution of the assets in the estate.
  • Living Will – This expresses how a mentally or physically incapacitated person wishes to be treated in certain medical situations by detailing the exact medical treatment they want.
  • Guardianship/Conservatorship – A guardian is appointed by a court to make decisions about the individual’s care and property when he or she is no longer able to provide for himself or herself and the family is unable to agree.

Creating a Long-Term Care Plan. Long-term care planning should accommodate the individual’s current needs and preferences as well as his or her needs and preferences as they evolve. Consider whether the person with dementia is willing to move to a residential care facility or would prefer to stay in the comfort of home. In-home care services are offered on a as needed basis and provide customised, one-on-one support at home which is often the preferred choice.

End of Life and Funeral. Although difficult, funeral planning gives the decision making power to determine what one does and does not want in the final stages. Identify which life sustaining treatments an individual wishes to receive and decide whether or not he or she will want to use hospice care services. For some, expressing their direct wishes for funeral plans can be an empowering part of the process. Remember, planning ahead not only gives individuals control over their future needs, but also gives peace of mind to their families. It’s a fact of life that we all will face but if you can discuss it early enough, then the pressure and stress of organising it later is lessened.

Local Support and Resources. Finally, take care of your health and mental wellbeing. Planning for the future and coming to terms with the diagnosis can be overwhelming. A variety of support groups are available to cater to your specific needs, including groups for people with a diagnosis, loved ones of an individual with dementia or caregivers of people with dementia. Join a local group like Alzheimer’s Australia.

Whilst is can be a difficult time for those around the patient, and often a struggle to accept the diagnosis, you are not alone and there is much support available. Making plans early with dementia can at least make the journey easier for everyone.

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Your Home or Retirement Home?

As Baby Boomers are approaching retirement and beyond, planning for the future must be on the agenda at some point. In particular, where will you live for the final trimester of life?

Of course, there are others that would never consider any change required since they haven’t stopped long enough to realise that they are actually getting older!  For those that are still very much living active lives, then they may consider changing home not necessary. But as we age, the staircase becomes harder to climb, the big back yard has more pain then joy, the numerous spare rooms just become storage rooms and the whole home maintenance issue may become a burden that is stopping you from enjoying life to the fullest.facing retirement

There are two sides to this discussion – to stay or not to stay?  Staying in the familiar surroundings of the family home has many benefits and if you are active enough to manage staying put. Sometimes the strain of moving into another property is greater than the strain of staying put. As time goes on, you may invest in home support services, engage a house cleaner, a gardener and have nursing support visit to ensure you are still managing to enjoy quality of life. On the other hand, looking after a larger property may be just the very reason why you remain healthy enough to enjoy your life. Perhaps you still have lots of family, grandchildren and friends that want to come and stay. Maybe you have hobbies that require the larger property i.e. woodworking, gardening or keeping animals.

However, if you would rather pack up the family home and consider a retirement home/unit, then there are many considerations to take into account before you sell the home. It’s a big decision.  Here’s a quick check list to consider:

  1. Will it have close proximity to family?  A real advantage especially when a decline in health is inevitable.
  2. Social compatibility and comfortable in your surroundings.
  3. Access to transport either with a village commuter bus or can you take your own vehicle?
  4. What access to medical care is available?
  5. Parking facilities. Is there a problem parking for your car or guests?
  6. Is there any garage space or shed, particularly for men who may want to have a workbench.
  7. What activities are on offer?  Is your hobby catered for?
  8. Do some due diligence by chatting with residents and anyone who has associations with the retirement village.
  9. Look ahead. You or our partner may eventually need full-time care, so check if there is a nursing home nearby or one that is part of the village.

Look beyond the gloss and marketing of retirement village offerings as it is a really big decision for all the family. Are you really ready to make the big change?

With the plethoras of home support services now available, staying in the family home has become more and more viable. From the smallest task like grocery shopping or attending medical appointments to having medical support visit to ensure your well being, the option to remain in the family home is now easier than ever.

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Overcoming The Aged Care Obstacles

The biggest obstacles to accepting non-medical home care are often the elderly persons themselves, who are reluctant to acknowledge their needs. After all, your parents or elderly loved one has been able to do everything themselves for a very long time and now they are faced with change.  With change often comes a painful period of chaos and disruption. As we age, we don’t like change, that’s just our nature. Sometimes, the elderly will dig their heels in and protest all the way.  “There’s nothing wrong with me” seems to be a common outcry and they acknowledge that actually, they can’t do what they have always done.stubborn grandparents

All too often the mind of an elderly person is still thinking they are six foot tall and able to do everything like they have for 60, 70 or 80 years. Accepting that their body can’t follow through anymore is a difficult challenge. It requires sensitive handling and shouldn’t be rushed.

Remember that whilst the elderly are still alive and fully coherent, they still have feelings and should be respected as humans every single moment.

Often they are advised by their health care provider or doctor that assistance is now required and they may need daily supervision for even the basic tasks like taking their medication on time, bathing themselves or eating correctly. They may need escorting to doctor’s visits, hospital outpatients or on shopping ventures.

Most seniors are unwilling or unable to acknowledge their need for non-medical home care, and are not usually the one to make the decision to accept further assistance. It is often left to their partners, family or close relatives.

The care of an ageing person is a collaborative and holistic approach with participating medical professionals and hospitals take joint responsibility for the quality and cost of patient care, and they function under a variety of risk-sharing arrangements. With all services communicating and acknowledging each other’s contribution to the elderly patients needs, then the best outcome is achieved. At all times, the partner or family members are keep informed. You should also consider the budget restraints with your choice of providers and ensure you are getting the best option.

When discussing the possibility of either a new residence or a new service provider to assist the elderly, it may be beneficial to do a site inspection of the new proposed residence with the patient-to-be or show them video or brochures on home care services to put their mind at rest and assure them that they will be in good hands and not forgotten. It is important to reinforce the trust and reminder them they are not being pushed away or ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

With a tight market for aged care facilities in Australia, many elderly persons are now being cared for in their own home, or the home of a relative, with in-home care providers supporting them. Sometimes they are dependent upon a good hearted neighbour to supervise and support them. This is often conducive to a better outcome for the elderly by having homely, familiar surroundings and routine but often still requires the back up support of professional aid like aged care support workers or nurses to visit.

Take the decision slowly (if time allows) and let the elderly person adjust to a new way of life, re-enforce the trust and stand by them throughout the process and you will find the transition a smoother process. Maybe stubborn old grandfather will like a little fussing over him in the end!

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The Price Of Love

What price can you put on love? Love should come unconditional and priceless unless you have a disability.price of love

For those one in five that have a disability in Australia, this is a very real issue. Of those with a disability, 45% of them live below the poverty line which is sometimes hard to fathom in a wealthy country like ours. And often their partners or carers are amongst those on the poverty line too.

Often the person with the disability feels dis-empowered to financially contribute to the relationship due to their low income and often high expenses associated with their disability. It takes a special kind of partner to acknowledge that in the first place.

People with disabilities are already bombarded by society’s assumption that they are not equal to their able-bodied partners and unable to pay half of the bills and rent makes it harder to ignore public perception.  The lucky ones have a supportive partner but many (disproportionately high) are single due to their disability. For people who are already struggling, making them dependent on the goodwill of someone else is dangerous and leaves them with the very real possibility of being subject to forms of abuse. This is particularly true for women with disability.

A landmark report by Women with Disabilities Victoria into women with disabilities’ experience of violence in 2014 found that we are at least twice as likely to experience violence as women without disability, with 90 per cent of women with intellectual disability having experienced sexual abuse.  Overseas studies have found that women with disabilities are 40 per cent more likely to be the victims of intimate partner violence at the five year point than women without disabilities; this increases to 85 per cent likelihood at the 10 year point.  One of the main reasons for conflict is usually financial matters.

Money isn’t everything and it certainly can’t buy you love. But money can give you freedom, independence, choices and a lot more security.

Living with a disability is more expensive. There are health costs, transport costs and rent can be more expensive as it is hard to find accessible housing.

The sacrifices that are made by the able-bodied partner to share their life and love with a person with disability is huge. They are bonded by the love and focused on each other’s well being and relationship rather than the material things that money just can’t buy.

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You Don’t Need To Be Sick

You may think we only have sick clients, but that’s far from reality. Some of our clients are really sick (cool) but they really don’t need to have an illness to reach out for a helping hand.

Numerous Your Home Care clients are perfectly healthy people if only their bodies could keep up with them. Can you imagine the difficulty of being independent and then losing the use of your arms, legs or even your sight? Whilst they may want to retain that independence, their body just can’t do it. This may be a permanent injury or a temporary incapacity.  With a little assistance during this time can often mean the client is able to retain as much independence as possible and either maintain some quality of life or recover faster to become fully independent again.

The scope of our not-so-sick clients:  We were happy to assist ‘Mary’ when she fell and broke both her wrists and would not have been able to manage living on her own without some assistance during her time of heeling. Gradually as ‘Mary’ recovered, our support was reduced and she was able to return to her independent, happy self.

Then we met ‘Ben’, who broke both legs in a skateboarding stair jump accident. Both his step dad and mum worked, and couldn’t take extended leave to care for him. That’s where we came in. And I tell you what, our nurses and personal carers learnt a lot about skateboarding tricks during Benny’s recovery. He certainly wasn’t sick but some of his stories were.

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Reaching for goals at 2016 Rio Paralympics – Tracey

And then there is our Paralympic target shooter for 2016 in Rio. Tracey is absolutely full of life and won’t let her wheelchair stop her reaching her goals.  Due to FSH Muscular Dystrophy, Tracey needs an assistant to load her rifle at competitions and training.  2015 qualifying trials get underway next month and we’ll be behind Tracey all the way. The skill is in the aim and she clearly has the aim on the target in her sights.

Occasionally our clients just need a break from caring for their elderly or handicapped loved ones and we can give those carers a break by taking their place for a few days so they can be assured that everything is still in order at home. Whether it’s to attend a family function, go to a movie or a weekend break away with friends, sometimes the main carer needs the support too. This is often the case when one has dementia and can be demanding. It is usually best that the person with dementia maintains their familiar surroundings and routine whilst the main carer gets to have a break from the constant demands. With our partnership, it can be made possible.

So you don’t need to be sick to be assisted in that time of need. Our carers make recovery at home possible, they also make the greater independence possible and support the highest quality of life possible with in-home care services.

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Aged Care Made Easier

Getting older is a fact of life and not much we can do about it except that it doesn’t have to be a hard road to travel down.  We are an ageing population and at some time we will all have to address the issue of ageing family members. As their health and mobility declines, their needs for support increase and the therefore we need solutions to ensure their quality of life is not compromised.  Research suggests that we are all better off in our own environment, our familiar surroundings, our own homes for as long as possible.Aged Carer

If you have ever been involved in trying to help someone with enquiries for an Aged Care Home, you may have realised how stressful, painful and complex the whole process can be. And many times, it has become an emergency and therefore a rushed decision.  Whereas, there are other options that could be, and should be, investigated to retain some quality of life in the final years.

Never assume that Aged Care Home is the last option (or only option).  There are many levels of assistance available for those getting a little older and starting to struggle.  You don’t want to let the situation go on until it becomes an urgent last minute struggle.  Once you think there might be a need for assistance in the very near future, start having the discussion with all concerned family members or care givers. This way it won’t be such a shock when the decision has arrived.

If you can’t care for your elderly family members (or even yourself) for any reason, then getting home assistance can delay or negate the need for Aged Care Home and offer you the support that is needed.

Whilst Aged Care Homes provide a good service for specific people and specific circumstances i.e. dementia patients and others cater for special demographics i.e. religious or cultural needs. Other Aged Care facilities are more like 5 star resorts. They can the support that is sometimes required when in-home care is no longer an option.

In-Home carers are trained professionals in what they do. They have chosen to care as their profession, and know how to do it in the safest and most professional manner, taking away embarrassment and making care a normal process with due respect.

Some people may like to combine a little respite care with in-home care as a way of ‘use before you buy’ and getting accustomed to such environments.  It also allows for the care givers to have a break but knowing they are safe. This may be a great interim set up as a stepping stone to the inevitable. The longer they can stay in their permanent home, familiar surroundings and their home comforts, then the longer they will stay active and enjoy a fulfilling life.  Research shows that the elderly will usually live longer if they are able to remain in their own home as long as possible.  Having in-home support, just like a cleaner or someone to ensure they are eating properly, taking their medications or drive them to an appointment is often the little extra that is required when family is not always available. Then our elderly family members can also enjoy their neighbourhood, pottering around the garden, walking the dog or patting the cat etc. As early stages of dementia set in, then having familiar surroundings becomes very important to them.

Some of our clients have formed strong friendships with our carers and often say it is the highlight of their day to see a smiling face and a familiar face each day.  It’s better for families to have the research ready and acknowledge the inevitable early in time to avoid any urgent situation and keep their elderly loved ones in a safe and happy environment for as long as possible. Have you planned for your elderly family members final years?

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The Seeing Eye Dog Discrimination Issue

Living with blindness has enough hurdles to overcome without being subjected to discrimination but there are improvements starting to happen.guide dog

Just recently, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the QLD State Government will introduce new laws to cut red tape around the permit process for seeing-eye or guide dogs.  The announcement was made at a guide dog graduation ceremony in Brisbane advising that people would no longer have to prove their disability every time they renewed their guide dog permit, amongst other changes. These type of small changes that will have a big impact on those effected by the loss of sight.

Losing your vision changes your life dramatically and the last thing they need is to be discriminated against. The everyday activities that become difficult or near impossible. There are many types of vision impairment and each has a different effect on a person’s ability to see and on their mobility. Having a guide dog is essential for some people and their link to leading an independent life and the outside world. These dogs are highly trained and intuitive to the person’s welfare and needs.

People in the company of a Seeing Eye Dog puppy, dog in training or working dog, have a right of access to all public spaces and services. Vision Australia’s research shows that many people experience discrimination when out with a Seeing Eye Dog or puppy in public places.

A few years ago, a NSW taxi driver was in big trouble after refusing a fare from a passenger with a guide dog because he claimed he was allergic to dogs. NSW Taxi Council said under the Passenger Transport Act a driver could only refuse to transport a person on one of two conditions; either the driver believes they are at risk of physical harm, or they do not believe the passenger can afford the fare, in which case they can ask to see proof of funds. Being allergic to dogs did not constitute sufficient reason to discriminate. Fortunately, most taxi drivers are exceptionally accommodating for their blind passengers.

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner has an important responsibility to lead the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. This Act makes disability discrimination unlawful and aims to promote equal rights, opportunity and access for people with disabilities.

So next time you see someone at the local shops with their guide dog, take a step in their shoes and be considerate to them. They are people too!

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NDIS To Roll Out in Queensland

We’ve been hearing about NDIS for some time and finally, The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will start in Queensland from 1 July 2016. This is a result of public campaigning that was announced by Julia Gillard as Prime Minister in 2011.

So how does the NDIS work?NDIS sufferer

The NDIS takes a flexible and holistic approach working with eligible participants, their families and carers, to develop individualised plans. The NDIS provides participants with more choice and control over how, when and where their supports are provided. It also provides certainty that they will receive the support they need over their lifetime. For those people suffering a disability, this is a real victory.

The NDIS works to connect participants with community and mainstream supports. The NDIS funds the additional reasonable and necessary supports to help participants pursue their goals and aspirations, and participate in daily life.

It is estimated that around 97,000 Queenslanders will be supported by the Scheme when it is fully rolled out bringing a welcome relief for not just the sufferers, but their carers and families too.

The scheme has been on trial in other States for a little while now. The roll out of the NDIS in Queensland will benefit from the experiences of the existing trial sites as well as drawing on the expertise of Queensland’s disability sector. The specific needs of Queenslanders with disability living in rural, regional and remote areas, and remote Indigenous communities will also help guide the Scheme’s delivery in Queensland.

Making Your NDIS Plan

Your NDIS plan is not a one-off event. You set your own review timetable so if your circumstances change, you can adjust your plan. You can you manage it yourself, get assistance from another person or use the NDIS agency. Your plan will list a range of supports you need to live your life to the full. Some of your supports may be arranged through our organisation with our specifically qualified staff.

Choosing your service provider:

  • Can the providers in my area can offer the kinds of supports that I may need?
  • Do the supports offered by any of the providers meet my personal needs and help me to achieve any of the goals?
  • Will the provider work to support me and respect my rights?
  • How will I control the support for me?
  • Can the provider guarantee flexibility of support that fits my life?
  • What skills and experience do their staff members have?
  • Does the provider charge a fair price?
  • Can I contact my provider at any time?
  • What do other people with disability or carers say about the quality of the support the provider delivers to them?

It’s an important decision, one that requires careful consideration and research.

Read about NDIS scheme and how you will benefit here

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Medical Cannibis Trials

Medical cannabis trials to commence in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales

The NSW Government introduced the scientific trials last year to help treat patients with drug-resistant and uncontrollable epilepsy.Medical-Cannabis1

The new agreement means Victorians and Queenslanders suffering terminal or life-threatening conditions can take part in the NSW clinical trials.

The three trials will be conducted by the Government and will examine the use of cannabis in providing relief for patients.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the focus of the trial would be for families whose children suffer from life-threatening seizures.

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick says the clinical trials will set a framework to explore the possibility of regulated medical cannabis in the state, but the trials are dependent on the advice of medical researchers.

It is hoped that the work can be completed this year. You have to look at the different types of treatments and the different types of illnesses which are all unique. The aim is to not cut off one path for treatment of people just to get an outcome in one particular area.

The Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) said it supported scientific trials into the use of medicinal cannabis.

AMAQ president Dr Shaun Rudd said the trials would determine if it was safe. “We think it’s a great idea – we’ve always wanted to get further evidence to see if this is something that we can use, medically or not,” he said.

Hopefully with the trials we’ll find out what components of the cannabis itself is the useful ones for medical treatment.

The Queensland Government is caring enough to put money in to be able to research to hopefully find not a cure, but to ease a lot of people’s lives.

The clinical trial will be the first of its kind in Australia and part of a handful of similar studies carried out worldwide.

The medicinal cannabis will be in the form of a tincture or edible product.  Unlike street marijuana, which contains high levels of the chemical compound THC, the oil extract used in the trial will have high levels of cannabidiol or CBD, and low levels of THC.  This maximises the anti-seizure potential and decreases the risk of mind-altering psychoactive effects.

Whilst this is not a miracle cure, it appears to be a step closer to enabling those with epilepsy gain some normality in their lives.

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