Mary Alexander: Hi! I am Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care, and today I am talking about avoiding caregiver burnout. And in this video, we will talk about depression in family caregivers and give you some ways to cope.
A study from the 'American Journal of Public Health' says that family caregivers who provide care 36 or more hours a week are more likely than non-caregivers to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. For a spouse, the rate is six times higher, and for those caring for an aging parent, the rate is twice as high. In general, women caregivers experience depression at a higher rate than men.
Certainly, family caregiving does not cause depression, nor will everyone who provides care experience the negative feelings that go along with depression. But, in an effort to provide the best possible care for a family member or a friend, caregivers often sacrifice their own physical and emotional needs, and the emotional and physical experiences involved with providing care can strain even the most capable person.
The resulting feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, isolation, exhaustion, and then guilt for having these feelings, can take a heavy toll. Unfortunately, feelings of depression are often seen as a sign of weakness rather than a sign that something is out of balance.
Comments such as snap out of it or it's all in your head are not helpful and reflect a belief that mental health concerns are not real. Ignoring or denying your feelings will not make them go away either. People experience depression in different ways. The type and degree of symptoms vary by individual and can change over time. The following symptoms if experienced for more than two consecutive weeks may indicate depression.
A change in eating habits resulting in unwanted weight gain or loss. A change in sleep patterns, too much or not enough sleep. Feeling tired all the time. A loss of interest in people and/or activities that once brought you pleasure. Becoming easily agitated or angered. Feeling that nothing you do is good enough. Thoughts of death or suicide or attempting suicide. Ongoing physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
Early attention to symptoms of depression may help to prevent the development of a more serious depression over time. The National Institute of Mental Health offers the following recommendations.
First, set realistic goals in light of the depression and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
Second, break large tasks into small ones. Set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
Third, try to be with other people and to confide in someone. It is usually better than being alone.
Fourth, participate in activities that make you feel better, such as mild exercise, going to a movie or a ball game, or attending a religious, social, or community event.
Fifth, expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
Sixth, it is advisable to postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant transition, change jobs, get married or divorced, discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation. People rarely snap out of a depression, but they can feel a little better day-by-day. The most frequent treatment for depressive symptoms that have progressed beyond the mild stage is antidepressant medications, in conjunction with ongoing talk therapy.
A mental health professional can assess your condition and arrive at the treatment most appropriate for you. Before we get into ways to help you cope with the stress that family caregiving can bring, we are going to talk about one more difficult situation, and that is the challenge of dealing with dementia or Alzheimer's patients.