Dr. RS: Elderly Care and Brain Health

Dr. RS: Elderly Care and Brain Health

By: Dr. Riffat Sadiq, CEO of WNY Medical, PC, Channel Creator

Let’s talk about brain health in elderly people and how we can keep our brains young when we grow older. The number one thing that we need to do to keep our brain healthier and in a young form, is get a good night’s sleep. That will produce a lot of dopamine. Dopamine is known as a happy hormone and is going to help us with our attention span, and with our memory, it is one of the most important hormones. This will help us to decrease our risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. So, have a proper good night’s sleep, 8 hours a day. It is extremely important for your brain health.

The next thing is if we want to keep our brain young, we have to keep using it. If you like to do puzzles, social activities, or other things, keep yourself involved. If you are not involved and are sitting on the couch watching TV your brain is going to deteriorate faster. My dad was in his mid-90s and he could do accounting better than anyone else. He would keep doing the things that he used to do when he was younger. So, if you are an accountant, keep doing some accounting. If you are a teacher, keep teaching people. Or involve yourself in any volunteer work, go to hospitals, and nursing homes and spend time there. Play a musical instrument, it’s never too late to learn! Also, keep yourself involved with family members and friends because that gives you happiness and when we are happy, we produce a lot of dopamine. Increasing dopamine will help keep our brains young.

Now let’s talk about mental health issues and the elderly population because it actually doesn’t get that much attention. The issue with mental health is we either underdiagnose it or we do not talk about it. Let’s discuss a few of the things we can do to help avoid mental health issues. First, let’s talk about what these mental health issues can be. Number one is depression and then anxiety. These are the two major problems that can develop if we do not pay attention to them and they can then turn into a disease called pseudo dementia. This means your memory is actually starting to be affected.

So, how we can actually take care of the elderly, and why is it so important to pay attention to these issues? Because these are some simple things, we can do. I have seen a lot of people who live alone where their social lives get curtailed for a variety of reasons. So, the number one thing we can do if there are family or friends close by is try scheduling family visits with your elderly loved ones on different days of the week. That can be the number one prevention for mental health issues in the elderly. So, if we start doing that, we make a conscious effort to visit and spend some time with loved ones who are older and talk to them. That can actually help them a lot.

Second thing is, there should be planned activities outside the home. Senior centers are a great way for them to have friends around so they are not lonely. If they are alone too often and they have no one around to talk to they start feeling very sad, and sadness leads to depression. So, we can avoid these things to a certain extent.

What are the signs and symptoms of these mental health issues? 

You will see people start actually having sleep problems, they will not be able to sleep at night. They will actually start eating less. If they are not eating properly or sleeping properly, it is going to affect their health overall. You will also start seeing that they will be withdrawn. Then you also will see they will start forgetting names, and things such as where they put their keys. That is where the memory is getting affected. So, we have to work on it if it’s avoidable. Some medications can affect the elderly and there are side effects that should be considered.

If you see anyone around you, or if you are elderly and having these symptoms then talk to your doctor. There are treatments available, there is counseling available. There are some medications which can help you. Also, there are senior centers or activities available for you. So please talk to your doctor and don’t ignore these symptoms.

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