Caregiving can be emotionally and physically stressful. When you place your loved one’s needs before your own day after day, you can develop feelings of guilt, sadness and anger. All are normal feelings.
But these types of stress can trigger depression, which can take a toll on you and your ability to care for yourself as well as your loved one.
Here’s a common scenario: A woman caring for her ill husband begins to have thoughts such as: “I have to do more for him each year, and I’m reaching a limit to what I can help with.” For example, managing his medicines was easy, but lifting him out of bed is beyond her physical capability.
Recognizing signs of depression is the first step to dealing with the problem. Here are some common symptoms for you to watch for in yourself:
Depression may be the cause if you have several symptoms that last more than two weeks.
If you’re feeling guilty or depressed because of the emotional strain of caregiving, try these suggestions from Amy D’Aprix, Ph.D., of Amy D’Aprix and Associates and a Humana Active Outlook® Advisory Board member:
Your doctor will do a physical exam, talk with you about symptoms and perhaps order lab tests. Depression can be treated with medicine, therapy and/or changes to your lifestyle. You may need to try different treatments to find one that works best for you.
With treatment and support, you can feel better and be happier. Your loved one benefits, too.
Sources: Amy D’Aprix, MSW, Ph.D., CSA, From Surviving to Thriving: Transforming Your Caregiving Journey, 2008; National Institute on Aging, www.nia.nih.gov; “Caregiver Health,” AARP, www.aarp.org; “Caregiving and Depression,” Family Caregiver Alliance; www.helpguide.org; www.mayoclinic.com; www.familydoctor.org.