There’s no two ways about it—being a caregiver is hard work. That may be especially true if you are a family caregiver for an elderly parent. All your life your parent has taken care of you, and now you find yourself needing to take care of them. It’s a tough transition. It’s also hard to watch someone you love growing older or struggling with an illness. Being a caregiver can take an emotional toll on a person. In fact, research shows that between 40 and 70 percent of family caregivers have serious signs of depression. Knowing the signs of caregiver depression and how you can prevent it could help you to avoid the problem and allow you to take better care of yourself and the senior in your life.
Symptoms of Caregiver Depression
Having a bad day once in a while isn’t unusual for anyone, but depression goes much deeper than just a short-term feeling of sadness. Depression is a serious condition that causes persistent feelings of sadness. These feelings occur almost every day and last for most, if not all, of the day. Symptoms of depression include:
- A general lack of energy and feeling tired.
- Feeling anxious.
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking.
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- Sudden outbursts of anger.
- A change in eating habits—either eating less or overeating.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Feeling sad, being teary frequently, or feeling hopeless.
- Blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault or fixating on mistakes you’ve made.
- Unexplained aches and pains.
- Thoughts of suicide.
Preventing Caregiver Depression
If you’re already experiencing symptoms of depression, get help. Depression isn’t your fault and it doesn’t make you a weak person. Talk to your doctor or to a mental health provider about treatment for depression. For those who are not currently experiencing symptoms of depression, here are some steps you can take to prevent caregiver depression:
- Ask for help before you feel overwhelmed. Create a team of people to help care for your parent. The more people who can help, the less stress is placed on one person. You may find it helpful to hire a home care provider through an agency to help take on some of the work.
- Give yourself a break. Make sure you spend some time doing things you enjoy and that help you relax.
- Eat healthy and exercise. Taking care of yourself is important for your overall health. Exercise can also help you to relieve stress. You may also find meditation helpful.
- Spend time with friends and family. Don’t let the time you spend caring for your parent monopolize all your time.
- Keep up your relationships with your friends and take time to spend with your spouse and children.
- Keep a journal. For many people, writing provides an outlet for the emotions that are difficult to speak about.
- Focus on the positives. Remember that what you are doing for your parent is a wonderful thing. You have the opportunity to spend time with them and to give back some of the care they have shown you all your life.
Remember, if you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, seek help now. Your doctor or mental health provider can help you with techniques for reducing symptoms or prescribe medication.
If you or an aging loved-one is considering in-home caregivers, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands Home Care at 215 882 8234.