Brunette female holding her mobile phone, looking through the window and drinking coffee

Tips for Caregivers to Manage Stress

More Australians are reaching an advanced age, and the number of people who have dementia is also rising. In 2015, 49% of people with dementia lived in aged-care accommodation. However, this still leaves 51% of people living with dementia who are being cared for by friends and family members. People who are living with the diseases that cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Bodies dementia, fronto-temporal dementia require a much greater amount of support and care compared to elderly people who don’t have these conditions.

While dementia can be hugely challenging for people who have been diagnosed, this also has a massive impact on the families and friends who look after them. Caregiver stress and burnout are common in people who are supporting  the elderly, particularly if that person is living with dementia.

Managing stress for caregivers is important, as it helps prevent burnout. You may be dealing with caregiver stress if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • You constantly feel worried and/or overwhelmed
  • You’re always tired
  • You’re sleeping too much or not enough
  • You’re easily angry or irritated
  • You’re losing or gaining weight
  • You’re no longer interested in the types of activities you used to enjoy
  • You’re often sad
  • You frequently have body pain or headaches
  • You find yourself using drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication to cope.

If any of the above sounds familiar, you may be experiencing caregiver stress. Here are some tips for caregivers of elderly people:

Use relaxation techniques

According to Mayo Clinic, there are a number of relaxation techniques which can help you slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, reduce chronic pain and muscle tension, and improve your mood and concentration. They can also help you get a better sleep and reduce some of the frustration and anger that caregivers can experience.

Autogenic relaxation is a good option if you’re having difficulty sleeping. That’s because it involves using both body awareness and visual imagery to reduce stress. You simply repeat suggestions or words to help you reduce muscle tension and relax.

Progressive muscle relaxation also works well, as you tense and relax each group of muscles, so you can become more aware of when you’re feeling tense and take immediate steps to relax.

Many people also use visualization, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, and mindfulness for relaxation and stress relief.

Stay connected

Caring for someone else can quickly take over your life- particularly if you also have a family and a job. It can be easy to become disconnected from friends and family as you spend most of your time supporting your loved one.

However, maintaining relationships with others is important. Make time to meet a friend for coffee, go out for dinner with your spouse, and let friends and family members know that you’d like to stay connected even when you’re busy.

Find social support

There are many different social groups available for carers, which means you can connect with people who have had some of the same experiences as you.

At Scalabrini we offer a Friendship Café where carers in the community get together once a month over a coffee. The groups can help you understand that your experiences and feelings are normal, and you can give and receive advice from people in similar situations as you- helping to reduce stress and anxiety. To find out more about this free service, please contact us on 1800 722 522.

Stay active

When we’re stressed and busy, exercise can often be the first thing to disappear from our schedules. But numerous studies have shown that exercise is an excellent way to manage stress, decrease overall levels of tension, improve sleep, stabilise and elevate moods, and improve self-esteem.

Exercising can also be valuable ‘You Time’, where you can block out the world for an hour and enjoy the endorphins that come with physical activity.

Visit your doctor regularly

Take time to get regular check-ups, and be aware of what your body is telling you. Pay attention to any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite or behaviour. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

Take a break

This is one of the caregiver tips you’ll need to pay the most attention to if you’re spending a lot of time looking after someone else. After all, there’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first.

We all need time for ourselves, and this is especially true for carers, who spend most of their time thinking about the needs of others. Stress relief for caregivers often involves simply taking a break from it all.

Make arrangements for some respite so you can take a few days or even a week of vacation time. This will allow you to recharge and refresh, and you’ll likely be an even better carer once you’ve taken time to relax. When you’re away, make sure you read a good book, watch that movie you’ve been meaning to see, take a nap, and talk about different things. Contact My Aged Care 1800 200 422 for information on respite services in your area.

Approximately 72% of people who provide care for an aging loved one are doing this without any outside help. That’s why you need to enlist the help of other friends and family members, or even a professional caregiver so you can take a break and prevent stress and burnout.

Are you wondering if an aged care facility could be the right choice for your loved one? Get in touch today to learn about life at Scalabrini.


Portrait Of Happy Senior Woman Enjoying Music With Headphone At Home

How Music Boosts Brain Activity for People Living with Dementia

According to experts from Johns Hopkins, few things simulate the brain like playing and listening to music. One otolaryngologist describes it as a ‘total brain workout,’ and experts around the world continue to try to understand how our brains perceive music.

Listening to, and playing music is great for everyone, but it’s particularly helpful for people who have brain injuries and dementia. In fact, studies have shown that those living with dementia who listen to music are able to better recall memories, along with the emotions that are attached to those memories.

To understand how this happens, you first need to know how your brain processes music.

How music impacts the brain

Music therapy activities work so well because they stimulate brain activity. One of the most interesting factors for people living with dementia is that music is represented throughout our brains- not just within one part. That’s because we don’t just process music as sound- it also represents vision, language, movement, and emotion.

Music is processed in these brain areas:

Corpus Callosum – This connects the right and left hemispheres of our brains.

Sensory Cortex – This is where we get tactile feedback from dancing and playing an instrument.

Motor Cortex – This is impacted by movement like dancing, tapping a foot, and playing instruments.

Auditory Cortex – This is where we perceive and analyse tones.

Hippocampus – This is where music is connected to our memories.

Prefrontal Cortex – This is the part of the brain involved with expectations.

Visual Cortex – When we read music, watch a performance, or watch ourselves moving, the visual cortex is involved.

Nucleus Accumbens – This is where humans process their emotional reactions to music.

Cerebellum – This part of the brain is also impacted by movement, along with the emotional reactions that we have to different music.

Music as therapy 

When we look at all the areas of the brain that are impacted by music, it’s easy to see why music is being used as a type of therapy for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Music therapy for those living with dementia is particularly helpful, as it has been shown to improve mood, improve social interactions, reduce agitation, and facilitate cognition. It can also help stimulate remote memory, which helps reduce the amount of confusion that those living with dementia experience within their immediate environments.

In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, participants were given a 10-week music coaching program, which involved either listening or singing to familiar songs.

Singing was beneficial for executive function, working memory, and orientation- particularly for people who had mild dementia or were younger than 80.

Simply listening to music only had cognitive benefits for those with advanced dementia, however, both listening and singing helped reduce symptoms of depression for people at all stages.

Music therapy for elderly people is hugely beneficial since it helps to ease anxiety, agitation, and distressing behaviour. One study found that when music is personalized to the listener, it can reduce the use of anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medication.

The study was for six months, and more than 13,000 long-term nursing home residents were studied. Their results were compared to almost 13,000 residents from other homes who didn’t participate. Many of the residents who participated in the program were able to discontinue their antipsychotic medication, and behavioural problems also decreased.

Music therapy in dementia care can make a massive difference in people’s lives. Not only does it help them connect to memories, but it also helps with depression and boosts brain activity in a number of ways. Music therapy activities are not only enjoyable, but they’re also a workout for the brain. Dopamine is increased, which is one of the feel-good chemicals of the brain. When playing with other people or watching live music, oxytocin is also naturally released, helping patients to bond with others.

Memory loss is often one of the worst symptoms for those living with dementia and Alszeimer’s. But music actually helps improve memory. Music for people living with dementia is hugely beneficial for both the individual and their loved ones, and the power of music shouldn’t be underestimated.

At Scalabrini, we believe in offering music therapy for seniors. Get in touch today to learn more about our programs.


Assets and Income Assessment

Before beginning care at Scalabrini or any other aged care home, you’ll need to complete an assets and income assessment. This test allows the Department of Human Services to determine whether you are eligible for financial assistance for aged care accommodation. It also determines whether you need to pay a means-tested care fee.

How to apply for income and assets assessment

You’ll need to contact the Department of Human Services (DHS) for an ‘Aged care fees income assessment form to begin your income and assets test. You can request the form:

  • Online
  • By visiting your local Centrelink office
  • By calling Human Services on 1800 227 475 or the Department of Veteran’s Affairs on 133 254 and requesting the form in the post

If you’re currently receiving an Australian pension, the government will already have some of your information and you’ll only need to complete some parts of the form. If you are not paid a pension, you’ll have to complete the entire form.

Information you’ll need

The income and assets assessment tests a range of factors to determine your overall financial situation. In aged care, income is captured under a much wider net than regular taxable income and is not considered to be the same.

When undergoing the income and assets test, you will be assessed on:

  • Assets such as bank accounts, bonds, shares, cash and gold
  • Income support payments, including those received from overseas (pension, disability payments etc.)
  • Deemed income from investments
  • Net income from rental properties and businesses
  • Superannuation
  • Income stream products such as annuities
  • Family trust distributions or dividends from private company shares
  • Deemed income from excess gifting

Investments that do not earn income are also assessed, such as:

  • Holiday homes or other real estate
  • Life insurance policies
  • Cars, boats, motorcycles and caravans
  • Your home and contents

For more detail on exactly what’s assessed during the income and assets test, visit the My Aged Care website.

Reducing aged care fees with the income and asset assessment

You need to complete an income and assets assessment to be eligible for any accommodation subsidies from the Australian Government. Financial support for aged care costs is something most older Australians will find themselves eligible for. There is no real downside to completing the test – the time it takes to complete the assessment is well worth the money saved.

Feel free to call us at Scalabrini for more information about the Assets and Income Assessment.