Check in with friends on World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day falls on 10th October every year and serves as an important reminder of the need to reflect on our wellbeing. This year, it is more important than ever as the pandemic continues to affect our lives in so many ways. And so we are encouraging everyone to check in on their friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues. Read on to discover some of the most common mental health issues arising from the covid crisis and how you can offer support to friends who may need it most.

Loneliness

Cut off from the world during lockdown, shielding, or self-isolation – loneliness has had a huge effect on many people. It is also continuing to affect those missing out on important milestones or precious time with loved ones, and remote workers craving social interaction with colleagues in the office.

If sustained for a long period, chronic loneliness can have a huge impact on an individual’s mental health. They may feel overwhelmingly isolated, they may lose confidence in themselves, and they may find themselves unable to connect with people on an intimate level. The idea of socialising after a prolonged period of loneliness may cause the individual anxiety, triggering the stress hormone, cortisol, and leaving the person feeling exhausted.

It is therefore vital to check in regularly with friends and let them know they are not alone – if not in person, then by text, phone call, or video. Help keep their mind active by suggesting new hobbies and pastimes, or encourage them to volunteer or accompany them to a group to meet new people.

Anxiety

So much about life in the pandemic has been unsettled, so it is only natural that most people have felt anxiety to a certain extent over the past year. Fears surrounding the effects of covid, nervousness about another wave – it is all completely understandable.

However, if left unmanaged, prolonged anxiety can lead to health issues, such as sleep disruption, digestive problems, lowered immune system, and it could even increase the risk of heart disease.

If you notice that anxiety is starting to overwhelm a friend, it is important that they talk to someone. Make sure they know you are always available, should they ever feel a need to talk through a problem. If you think they are struggling to concentrate or deal with everyday tasks, or it is escalating into panic attacks, it is essential that they speak to a health professional who will be able to treat the condition through therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

Stress

Most people would agree that life is a juggle, but for many people, the past year has taken multi-tasking to the next level! Working from home whilst home-schooling the children has left many feeling burnt out. Add to the mix financial worries and doubts over job security, and it’s easy to see how stress can take over someone’s life.

Tension headaches, difficulty sleeping and concentrating are tell-tale signs that a friend may be under stress. If left untreated, prolonged stress can lead to a wide range of health issues including depression, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Look out for the signs and offer practical help if you can to help lighten the load. Offer to babysit their children for a couple of hours, recommend a yoga class, or encourage them to take a sick day to focus on getting their mental health back on track.

It’s good to talk

If you think someone you know is suffering with their mental health, the key thing is to let them know that they can talk openly with you. Listen without judgement and support them when needed. Should they need to discuss anything with a medical professional, appointments are available with our GP´s.

 

Alzheimer’s: Knowing the signs and symptoms and living with the condition

There are lots of causes of dementia, and many different types too. You may often hear the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia and understand that they are both related to memory loss, but it can be confusing to understand their differences, what each of them mean and how they are both related. ‘Alzheimer’s’ is a type of dementia,
and along with ‘vascular dementia’ makes up the majority of dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative condition, meaning it will get worse over time. It occurs when an individual’s brain cells begin to die and overtime,  the brain will function less and symptoms will worsen. Alzheimer’s causes a gradual decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. The severity of these symptoms depends on the stage of the disease.

The early signs of Alzheimer’s

At the start, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be fairly mild and may even be confused with natural symptoms of ‘getting older’. Although everyone’s experience may differ slightly, for the majority of people, the first signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss; finding it difficult to remember recent events and conversations, easily misplacing items such as keys and glasses or forgetting about important appointments and significant dates like birthdays.

A person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may also have changes in their mood, becoming anxious or depressed and often frustrated and more easily annoyed. These symptoms can be particularly difficult for the individual and for close family and friends too.

What to expect as Alzheimer’s advances

As Alzheimer’s worsens, the symptoms become more severe and a person suffering with Alzheimer’s will eventually need day-to-day support. Some individuals start to have delusions and believe events have occurred that are not true. Changes in behaviour may also occur and they may also start to react aggressively to certain situations, become more agitated and behave differently to how they would’ve previously behaved.

As Alzheimer’s progresses into the later stages, the person will become much less aware and may struggle with their basic needs such as eating, walking and bathing, requiring help with more or all of their daily activities.

What to do if you think a loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s?

If you think a loved one is experiencing the early signs of dementia, although it is a difficult topic to bring up and you may be afraid of upsetting or worrying them, it’s important to encourage them to speak to their GP.

Memory loss doesn’t always mean dementia and can be linked to stress, anxiety and a natural part of getting older. However, it is important to ask your loved one to speak to a GP to get diagnosed with the cause properly. If dementia is the cause ofmemory loss and is found early, in some cases, the progression can be slowed down with medication and the person may be able to maintain their mental function for longer.

What happens when you seek a dementia diagnosis?

Initially, a GP will ask more about the symptoms and how they have developed. They may also do a memory test and physical examination. Blood tests may be carried out to rule out any other conditions.

Once or if any other causes are ruled out, your GP will refer your loved one to a memory clinic, or other specialist service, where more observations and assessments are carried out to confirm the diagnoses.

How to support a loved one with Alzheimer’s

As well as living with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the condition can also have a significant emotional, social, psychological and practical impact on a person’s life, with a loss of independence, skills, self-esteem and confidence combined with worries about what the future will look like.

When supporting a loved one with dementia, it can be helpful for you to try and understand how they might think and feel, as these emotions will also affect how they behave. They will probably be experiencing a world that is very different to yours, so trying to see things from their perspective will help you offer support.

As a carer, family member or friend, you cannot help to slow down the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but by practicing the following, it can help you both manage living with the condition:

  • Keep things nice and simple, asking or saying one thing at a time so conversions or events are easy
    to follow.
  • Try and have a daily routine, so your loved one can expect when certain things will happen. This gives a structure to the day or week that doesn’t rely on the person’s memory.
  • Reassure them that he or she is safe and that you are there for them.
  • Focus on his or her feelings in the present moment and talk about how they may be feeling.
  • Don’t argue or try to reason with your loved one, their perception will likely be different to yours.
  • If the person repeats a question, it won’t help to tell them that they’ve already asked. Repeat your answers in a simple way.
  • Encourage your loved one to use a diary, journal or calendar to record events and conversations.
  • If the person is given an appointment card, put it where the person can easily see it. For example, you could pin it to a noticeboard.
  • Reduce distractions, such as background noise, to help the person focus on the task at hand.
  • Sometimes you may feel frustrated, angry or upset. Try and be patient with your loved one. If you feel like you need a break or some help, don’t be afraid to ask. There is lots of support available for both you and your loved one.

Getting help and support for you and your loved one- Living with Alzheimer’s can be extremely difficult and at times upsetting for an individual, and equally for their carer too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is
support available.

ASSOCIAÇÃO PORTUGUESA DE FAMILIARES E AMIGOS DOS DOENTES DE ALZHEIMER


How your GP can help

You can make an appointment to discuss your concerns about wither yourself or a loved one. Your doctor can discuss the types of evaluations or tests that can be conducted to help diagnose.

Support Services that can help with things like:

  • Providing carers to help with washing and dressing
  • Laundry services
  • Meals on wheels
  • Aids and adaptations

What you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia Research suggests that lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease, can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and are also directly linked to vascular dementia.

These lifestyle factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • And high cholesterol

To help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, you can:

  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet to prevent diabetes
  • Lead an active life, both physically and mentally
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Have regular health checks as you get older

And, if you are already diabetic, then working hard to reduce your blood sugars through regular exercise is important. You can do this by eating lots of fibre-rich foods like nuts, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, reducing carbohydrates as carbs eventually break down into sugars, drinking plenty of water and implementing portion control.

The story Of Achilles

Most people are familiar with Achilles, the famous Greek warrior who died after he was shot by an arrow in his tendon, now called the Achilles tendon.

The vulnerability of the Achilles tendon in sports is probably one of the most debilitating injuries that end a lot of sport careers.
If you look at an anatomy chart you will see what a tremendous strength this tendon must have to withstand everyday exertion.

There are numerous reasons why an Achilles tendon gets into trouble. For example:

  1. Repetitive overexertion
  2. Wrong foot position
  3. Acute (partial) rupture
  • Overexertion happens a lot when people start a sport without knowledge or built-up (running, gym). Repetitive straining damages the matrix and texture of the tendon, and results in a thickened and less dense quality of the Achilles (tendinopathy). This can be made visible by Ultrasound scanning (echography). Treatment has to contain two things: repair by Shockwave treatment and start of a 12 week program of ‘eccentric loading’. This program will create new, healthy tissue. After 12 weeks one can return to a gradual built-up in intensity to return to normal activity (image 1).
  • Wrong positioning of the foot leads to several problems: falling of the medial arch which will cause fasciitis plantaris or heel spur, but also a strain of the (medial) side of the Achilles. A reactive tendinopathy shows itself by acute swelling of the sheath (not the tendon!). Treatment is rather simple: correction of the foot position (insole) and relative resting + ice. In most cases no further treatment is necessary (image 2).
  • A (partial) rupture of the Achilles is dramatic in most cases: an acute tear of the tendon leads to a long-term treatment program. A complete tear needs surgery straight away. If not, the tendon will retract and connecting the ends will be quite impossible. A partial tear can be treated conservatively. Six weeks cast or boot in a plantar position and afterwards gradually stretching of the tendon. In this case no certainty that the tendon comes back to normal levels though… (image 3).
 When there is doubt of the severity of the injury, always make an Ultrasound scan!

Treatment without knowledge can lead to dramatic mistakes of strategy.
And once again: NO cortisones. It will lead to weakening of tissue and can induce a rupture.
And finally: a certain group of antibiotics (fluorchinolones) can cause sudden ruptures of large tendons (i.e. biceps and Achilles).

Be safe: when you have (chronic) Achilles problems, do not experiment but see a qualified therapist to determine the origin of your trouble.