How to Recognize Depression in Family Caregivers and Tips for Preventive Self-Care
Family caregivers usually aren’t surprised when loved ones become depressed. What isn’t expected by many is the same symptoms affecting those who are providing care. The Pegasus homecare experts in Studio City and elsewhere know that depression is an illness that can strike anyone.
Depression is a complex psychological condition with many causes. Because it is mental, rather than physical, people frequently avoid talking about depression. Keeping silent attaches a stigma that prevents individuals from seeking treatment.
Part of the stigma is believing that others will pass judgment on them if they admit to being depressed. Family caregivers especially fear that they will be branded as a failure. Feelings of shame and embarrassment keep them silent.
What families may not understand is that depression is a normal response to difficult circumstances. Family caregivers cope with difficult and stressful situations over which they have little to no control.
Depression Can Affect Everyone
Men and women of all races, ethnicities, and ages can experience depression. Causes include:
Researchers continue to study why some individuals are more vulnerable to depression than others. They are also investigating the triggers to lead to deep sadness.
Regardless of the cause, depression can be treated. Ignoring it does not make it go away. Talking about feelings with others can help.
Family Caregivers Experience Unique Conditions That Can Lead to Depression
Caregiving itself is not a cause of depression. However, a high percentage of family caregivers experience depression. For some, the feelings last for years after their responsibilities cease.
Family caregivers are noted for the sacrifices they make. Their own needs, whether physical or mental, often go unmet. Providing care for a loved one can be unending hard work.
Frequently, friends and other family members are unaware of how difficult and potentially stressful the caregiver’s job is. They tend to focus on the individual receiving care. They don’t understand that a caregiver is giving up their personal dreams and life plans.
Their efforts, which aren’t always appreciated, can lead to family caregivers feeling:
Because they love the person they’re caring for, caregivers often feel guilty about having negative feelings.
The stressful emotions experienced by family caregivers can lead to depression. Depression is more than feeling down or “blue.” Symptoms include:
- Food cravings
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Lack of energy
- Reduced appetite
- Restlessness or lethargy
Although different people have different symptoms, nearly all feel unrelenting sadness.
If the symptoms are recognized early, the depressed caregiver can take steps to keep their depression from worsening. Preventive actions include:
- Getting enough rest
- Eating well
At Pegasus, we recognize that family caregivers may not have the time for even these basics of self-care.
Pegasus Home Health Care Includes Respite Care
Homecare is frequently thought of as being for seniors. That’s not the case at Pegasus. Our services are available to clients of all ages and conditions.
We can provide respite care to family caregivers. Respite care is temporary care of a loved one. We think of it as caregiving for the caregiver.
Respite care gives family caregivers the time they need for themselves. It isn’t a cure for depression, but it can keep their symptoms for escalating.
Self-treatment is based primarily on self-care. Participating in social events and recreational activities can improve how individuals with mild depression feel. Setting priorities can relieve some of the stress that contributes to depression.
Other suggestions from experts include:
- Ask for help. Perhaps other family members or friends of the loved one can share more of the caregiving responsibilities than they have in the past.
- Join a support group. Being able to talk about feelings with others who are experiencing the same circumstances can relieve stress. Support groups are usually non-judgmental as well as a source of strength and encouragement.
- Avoid isolation. Family caregivers often neglect their own families and friends. It’s important to make the time to keep up with personal relationships.
- Keep a journal. A private journal allows individuals to vent. They can express any and all negative emotions without jeopardizing relationships.
- Focus on the good. It sounds dismissive of the stress family caregivers feel, but looking for something positive can help prevent depression. Sometimes a family caregiver overlooks the difference they’re making in their loved one’s quality of life. Caregiving can also provide an opportunity for personal growth in the caregiver’s life.
It is essential that family caregivers find ways to care for themselves. If they don’t, their depression can worsen. That can affect the level of care they provide.
Help is Available
When depression escalates from mild to major, it’s time to seek professional help. A health care practitioner can determine the appropriate treatment. That might include a prescription for an antidepressant.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our team of experts in Studio City and our other locations tailors their services to fit individual requirements. We’re here to help family caregivers and their loved ones obtain the level of care they need