Caregiving is difficult work which can often lead to feelings of stress, frustration, guilt, and even depression. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “a conservative estimate reports that 20% of family caregivers suffer from depression, twice the rate of the general population.”
Some signs and symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, disturbed sleep, becoming easily irritated loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, and changes in weight or appetite. In our role of “caring for caregivers,” Spectrum Generations Family Caregiver support staff often recognize these symptoms in the caregivers they work with and encourage them not to ignore them.
Unfortunately, some people see depression as a sign of weakness or failure. Depression deserves to be treated as any other illness that a person would seek medical attention for. Frequently, counseling is recommended, but sometimes anti-depressant medication can be useful. Speaking with a doctor to determine the course of treatment is usually the best first step in seeking help. It’s also important to keep in mind that caregivers can play an active role in preventing depression in the ones they care for as well.
Some methods to avoid or decrease depression include:
- Ask for help. Remember that people like to help, so try not to feel guilty about asking.
- Take a break. Use respite services, such as an adult day care program, to get some time away.
- Get educated. Knowledge is power. Take a class, such as the Savvy Caregiver program, to learn how to provide effective care and manage difficult situations.
- Get support. Attend a caregiver support group to address the emotional side of caregiving in a safe and understanding environment.
- Be active. Physical activity can help reduce stress.
- Stay positive. Focus on the enjoyable aspects of caregiving and try to find humor in otherwise overwhelming situations.