It is terribly heart-wrenching to see a loved one suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. We don’t always see the toll of these illnesses on caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that over 70% of those suffering from dementia are cared for at home by family caregivers. Factors leading to caregiver depression include age, ethnicity, and hours spent per week as a caregiver. In addition, the severity and/or presentation of the ill person (i.e. angry outbursts and difficulty with activities of daily life) also contribute to episodes of depression in their caregivers.
While anyone may be at risk of developing depression symptoms, there are specific issues that face caregivers of dementia patients that can contribute to worsening depression. Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be extremely stressful and time-consuming, leading to the caregiver putting their own needs and personal problems aside to get worse while they care for their ill loved one. Also, lack of sleep and much needed personal time can contribute to depression symptoms. It is important to note that even if the caregiver makes the difficult choice to place their family member in a care facility, symptoms of depression may persist long after as the caregiver copes with feelings of guilt, shame, and loneliness after making this decision.
What can caregivers do to decrease and cope with depression symptoms? Taking advantage of community resources, respite care, and the support of family and friends is essential to a caregiver’s overall well-being. Many communities offer support groups specifically for caregivers to process their feelings about this experience. Depending upon the severity of the caregiver’s depression, medication and therapy may be in order. If you or someone you know is struggling as a caregiver, please call Main St. Psychiatry today for support and information on how to cope with the mental health impact of caregiving.
Original material found at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1494967/