The staff at Accredited Home Care knows that there are times when it’s easy, when you get to spend peaceful moments with your client, perhaps sharing memories or being appreciated.
Then, there are other times when it things can be challenging, when he or she might be affected by dementia or other health conditions so might become aggressive, confused, abusive, or more demanding than usual.
To some caregivers, it’s all part of the job and they can go home at night and relax. For others, they might be taking care of a parent or other loved one without pay, and they have to live there too. This means they’re always “on call” and their volunteer status – and the health of the person they’re caring for – often means they aren’t eligible for things like vacations.
Sometimes people do this out of what they feel is a sense of responsibility and duty to a loved one who may have supported them in the past. Sometimes the person they’re caring for wants to remain independent and doesn’t want to move to a retirement community.
With all of these pressures, it’s no wonder that caregiving is considered physically as well as mentally stressful, and that caregivers are prone to depression.
How it starts
The Family Caregiver Alliance, part of the National Center on Caregiving, said depression isn’t easy to detect right away. Often, it’s one of those feelings that gradually build up over time, due to a variety of factors.
There may certainly be some genetic factors, where some people are more prone to depression than others. There also may be situations earlier in life where someone dealt with depression.
But the caregiving environment itself has plenty of potential to bring forth depression or extend feelings that are already present.
Caregivers are susceptible to:
- Isolation and loneliness. This can be common if they are on duty all the time and find it difficult to get out and socialize like they used to, or there isn’t anyone else to talk with, even their client.
- Fatigue. Always helping someone can be tiring, especially clients with dementia who have difficulty sleeping on standard schedules. Some of the duties of a caregiver can be physically exhausting, including preparing meals, housekeeping, and even grooming.
- Sadness. Caregivers may be sad about the condition of their client, especially if he or she has declined significantly.
- Anxiety. Clients with advanced dementia have increased possibility of hurting themselves or others, escaping, or even eating or drinking something that can be bad for them.
- Guilt. Feeling bad about feeling bad can create especially destructive thoughts.
All of these thoughts can grow and grow, but the good news is that the Family Caregiver Alliance has said it’s OK to feel all of these things – it’s a normal response to a difficult and stressful situation.
Signs to look for
Mental health problems are difficult to spot, even for trained health care providers, since there are so many possible factors and behaviors that can occur. One or two by themselves may not signal anything. But someone who exhibits or experiences several of them may be depressed. This diagnosis should be made by a mental health professional, especially someone who can suggest some treatment options.
Some of the possible danger signs of depression suggested by the Mayo Clinic include:
- Extended unhappiness. Depression is much more than having a bad day. But a prolonged period of bad days without any noticeable improvement, such as several weeks, can be a possible indicator of depression. Even a good day might be overshadowed by the thought that things will revert back to bad soon.
- Increased irritability. If things bother you more, or you go from slightly bothered to full-on angry much faster, that’s another possible indicator of depression. This can take the form of snapping at people as well.
- Difficulty concentrating. Depression can impact decision-making, remembering, and critical thinking.
- Lack of interest. You might find that certain activities are no longer fun or you lose motivation to do much of anything, from taking care of yourself or taking steps to feel better.
- Pain. While depression is thought of as something that mainly affects your mood, people who experience it say depression can be accompanied by physical discomfort, everything from headaches to back pain to aching joints.
Since it’s difficult to spot some of these feelings taking place in oneself, caregivers should be comfortable asking others for feedback and observation. This could include the person they are caring for, any other medical experts, or other family members.
They can visit a health provider, either their regular provider who can make a referral or directly to a mental health professional.
People also can look into respite care options. These can take the form of someone else coming over to sit with the client for a few hours, or a caregiver taking the client to a respite care center.
The team at Accredited Home Care is happy to provide other options in local communities or share strategies to begin to feel better.