caregiver depression

Moving on Up – Our “silver wave”

A 2018 report by the US Census Bureau indicates that ” By 2035,  {there is estimated to be} 78.0 million people 65 years or older compared to 76.4 million people under the age of 18″.  In other words, for the first time in our country’s history, the elderly population will outnumber children.” Dementia, substance abuse and mental illness continue to rise at a rapid rate, while mental illnesses continue to be stigmatized.  As our population ages, communities, families and friends will be tasked with meeting the physical and mental needs of older people.   It is vital that we care for our caregivers.   Caregiving doesn’t cause depression. Not everyone who caregives will  develop the negative symptoms assoicated with depression.

A Labor of Love Can Still Be Labor

The innate qualities of compassion, caring and thoughtfulness found in many people make them dedicated, attentive caregivers.  However, these very qualities may mean that, as caregivers, they sacrifice their own personal and emotional needs in order to provide the best possible care for their loved ones or friends. However, the stress of taking care of others comes with the risk of develping depressive symptoms. (For a reference link  to depression symptoms, click https://www.psycom.net/depression-definition-dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/) Also important to remember is that caregiver depression is still depression.  Caregivers effected by depression may still experience just as many day to day struggles as those of us experiencing out own depression, but with the additional responsibility/choice of caregiving.

Recomendations for Caregivers

Please note that these are recommendations and that your particular circumstances, diagnosis, severity of symptoms often dictate those most applicable to you/your loved ones/friends.

  • Set realistic goals. Trying to get every single task done in too small a period of time, puts unnecessary stress on a caregiver as well as the DP. (For efficiency, DP will be shorthand for “depressed person.”)
  • Do what you can when you can. In addition to setting realistic goals, break down large tasks into smaller pieces.
  • Maintain soical interactions with trusted others. Confiding in others may lessen some of the strain. Here https://www.caregiver.org/depression-and-caregiving is a link to interactive caregiver support groups and forums. Being with actual people is not always practical, but online support may be an option to consider. Especially with skype or duo, both feature video conferencing.
  • Engage in activities you enjoy (hobbies, exercise, religious services, community events). Feeling better takes time, especially if you have been experiencing chronic depression.  (One of my psychiatrists explained it to me like this, “It took you many years to arrive at your current state – severely depressed. It wil also take a long time to feel better.” This helped me. I cut down on the anxious thoughts about not feeling better, sooner. More patience with myself was key. Eventually I did get better. )
  • Postpone important decisions not related to the depression. It seems obvious to say this, but to clarify, the “mental fog” often experienced during depressive episodes may make for slower response times (physicallly and mentally)  Getting objective insight from trusted others is a possible solution.
  • “Snap out of it” or “Man up!” are inappropirae, dismissive comments which should never be used when iinteracting with a depressed person. No matter how frustrated or desperate one may feel.  *I am aware that the majority of my readers know this, but include it here for those “new” to caring for a depressed friend or loved one.
  • As your depressive symptoms improve, positive thoughts will replace negative thoughts. Look for smaller improvements day by day (gradually, not necessarily every single day).
  • Let your family and friends help you. Don’t feel any other way except fortunate and grateful. Banish guilt and worry over “imposing” on them. (I know this is very, very difficult from personal and, unfortunately, lengthy experience.  The following are links utilized in this post and are listed here for refrences of support/knowledge:

      http://www.caregiver.org/depression-and-aging

     http://eldercare.acl.gov  (Eldercare locator, resource to links for long-term care                                                         options.

http://consumerfinance.gov (guides to Power of Att’y., Trustees, Court appointed           guardians, government fiduciaries, all financial matters related to finances of           caregiving)

http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com   (this is just too promising not to include. It is a site for creating a “community” for your loved one, a post of the needs of the individual. Then their support group members can check it to see if they can help with needs of the person, ie. a ride to a doctor appt., accmpany to church, a hot meal, etc. It is for anyone in need of a helping hand…elderly, handicapped, recovering, family in need, those in cancer treatment, veterans/veterans family)

**It is ironic that, as I get ready to post this, a loved one has gone to the hosptital. We will seee how well I can follow my own advice.

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