Preventing Depression in Family Caregivers

Author: Hilary Eldridge

Taking care of your aging mom or dad is rewarding, but it is also stressful. Depending on their disability, their needs can easily take priority over your own. Over time, their health can deteriorate even more, demanding even more energy and attention to keep them healthy and safe.

As a result, many family caregivers develop strong emotions like sadness, frustration, loneliness, guilt and resentment. All this and more can turn into depression. It’s important that you learn to recognize the signs of depression in caregivers so that you can decide to get help for yourself, if needed.

Symptoms of Depression in Family Caregivers

The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but they are almost always caused by chronic stress, serious events in life, genetics, poor diet and lifestyle choices and even medication side effects. Common symptoms include sad feelings, irritability, insomnia or sleeping too long and weight loss or weight gain. Other symptoms include withdrawing from fun activities and friends, restlessness, lethargy, feelings of hopelessness, intense guilt, unexplained aches and pains, headaches and thoughts of suicide.

If you are showing signs of depression, don’t hesitate to set up an appointment with your doctor. Don’t wait to see if depression will go away on its own, because it can significantly impact the quality of care you give to your aging loved one.

How to Treat Depression in Family Caregivers

It can take some time for people with depression to find the right combination of factors that lead to a successful treatment. Your doctor will usually prescribe some anti-depressant medicine and refer you to a mental health specialist. People with depression can make wonderful strides when they get medication, counseling and adjust their eating and sleep habits.

The key for family caregivers in recovering from depression is adjusting their lifestyle to allow them to practice more self-care. Because the demands of caregiving are often so intense, it’s imperative that you get some help so you aren’t shouldering all the duties yourself. Ask friends and family members to step in regularly to provide you with breaks. When you have time for yourself to exercise, socialize, and pursue hobbies, you’ll bring more balance to your life and be better equipped to deal with depression.

You can also hire a home care service to provide regularly scheduled aides to come for a few hours a week to every day. The home care providers can help with housework, laundry, cooking and cleaning. They can also help with your aging relative’s daily tasks, like bathing, dressing, grooming, hygiene, and socializing. You’ll reduce your risk of depression if you set up options for regular respite, using resources like home care providers.

Even the most dedicated caregiver can’t do everything themselves for their elderly relative. The isolating and neglecting yourself can put your physical and mental health in danger from depression. It’s much better to take steps to prevent depression from ever happening to you and if it does, recognize that you need help and ask for it.




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