Senior Home Care Blog - Western Cook & Eastern DuPage Counties

Know the Signs of Caregiver Depression

By Mary Doepke, RN

Lack of exercise, sleep and proper diet can leave anyone feeling less than their best. Add to that the demands of being a caregiver, and it’s no wonder that many who are caring for an elderly loved one experience the sadness and lack of energy that comes with depression.

The responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one can be isolating, adding further to feelings of sadness. It might seem like everyone you know is out doing things they love and enjoying one another’s company, while you are left alone with your duties as a caregiver.

This is especially true for people caring for someone with dementia. In fact, Family Caregiver Alliance reports that a person caring for someone with dementia is twice as likely to suffer from depression as a person providing care for someone without dementia. The more severe the illness, the more likely the caregiver is to become depressed.

May is Mental Health Month – a good time to take a look at your mental well-being, or the mental well-being of a caregiver you love.

Look for these symptoms in yourself or your loved one:

  • Unwanted weight gain or loss as a result of a change in eating habits
  • Too much sleep, or the inability to sleep
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Loss of interest in people and activities
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Self doubt or feelings of inadequacy
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, body aches and digestive trouble
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Of course, it is normal to experience most of these things some of the time. But if they’ve been a problem for two weeks or more, depression could be to blame.

If you suspect that your or someone you love is depressed, it is best to seek help as early as possible. Left untreated, symptoms of depression will only get worse. Start with making an appointment with your physician, who can rule out other conditions that might have symptoms similar to depression. He or she also can prescribe medication, or recommend a mental health professional who can provide therapy and counseling.

There also are things the caregiver can do to ease feelings of depression, including:

  • Ask for help from family and friends, and accept help when offered.
  • Find a support group, such as those offered locally by Aging Care Connections.
  • Find ways to relax and take time for yourself. Try journaling, coloring, painting or meditation.
  • Physical exercise can ease symptoms of depression. Find a friend to join you for a walk, or ask a relative to take over caregiving duties while you attend a yoga or fitness class.

Remember that help is available. Whether through family and friends, your church, or Home Helpers, there are caring people available to help you and your loved one.