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Let There Be Light

By Erika Hoffman, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 5)

Veronica has worked with caregivers who suffer stress from managing their elderly parents with “heavy duty” dementia. If the caregiver gets therapy, it can help her cope with the senior afflicted with dementia and depression. By helping the caregiver control her stress levels, the elder is also helped. Even an aged person with deep confusion and rampant memory loss can pick up on the caregiver’s stress. In a situation Veronica relates, she asserts that when the caregiver became calmer due to therapy, so did her mother. Veronica emphasizes that caregivers must take care of themselves if they look after someone else. That 70-year-old didn’t understand all the ways dementia impacted her 91-year-old mother until Veronica gave her a book to read on the subject. Later she remarked to Veronica, “I felt very frustrated. Now, I understand how changeable her abilities can be.”Some family members can think the older person is just trying to seek attention when she repeats the same thing over and over or when she forgets something she seemed to know ten minutes earlier. Therapy for the caregiver can reduce the anxiety and worry that accompanies looking after the elderly.

The focus of Project Light is two pronged: Get Doctors inclined to screen for depression in their elderly clientele and then get identified people into treatment. Physicians have told Veronica that because of Project LIGHT, people have gotten into treatment that doctors could not persuade into treatment for years, especially men.

All the physicians involved in LIGHT say they screen more now, even if they use their own set of questions rather than the Geriatric Depression Scale supplied by LIGHT, which is used in the study so there is a standard approach to track data.

“Depression is something that, unfortunately, we don’t pick up on early,” states Steven Miller, MD at Woodholme Clinic.“In elderly patients, there are other health issues that come to the surface, like diabetes or heart disease,” says Dr. Miller.“While depression can be impairing, it tends to be more hidden. Having the mental health clinician in the office to screen patients has been a very positive experience.”

Studying the results of the screening of 2,563 seniors living in the Levindale service area, one finds 251 screened positive for depression. Of the 251, 119 agreed to a treatment program. One hundred and seven of the depressed were treated by LIGHT’s clinical nurse specialist, and 12 were treated elsewhere after being identified by Project LIGHT.


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