And I guess that’s why they call it the caregiver blues
Having a close relative with dementia is enough to get you down, but it’s important to clearly distinguish between normal – even healthy – levels of grief and the symptoms of depression – which caregivers are especially prone to.
· Losing or gaining weight.
· Sleeping too much or not enough.
· Chronic fatigue.
· Losing interest in once-enjoyable activities.
· Feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness.
· Suicidal ideation.
Why are dementia caregivers so susceptible to depression? Among other things because they:
· Spend more hours a week providing care.
· Report more employment problems, stress, and mental and physical health issues.
· Have less time for socializing and other enjoyable activities.
· Experience more family conflict than non-dementia caregivers.
Additionally, dementia caregivers have to deal with the personality changes and difficult behaviors characteristic of mental illness and cognitive decline, which can be a catalyst for frustration, anger, and yes, depression too, among other negative emotions and feelings. Furthermore, the gender of the caregiver also influences they way in which depression affects them.
About 12 million women suffer from depression in the U.S. And since most caregivers are daughters, wives, and otherwise female, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out there must quite an overlap there. Unfortunately, a National Mental Health Association study found that embarrassment and denial keep more than 40% of women from seeking treatment for depression.
Men are even less likely than women to admit that they are depressed, especially if they assume it is a sign of weakness. On the other hand, male caregivers are more likely to hire outside assistance, but have fewer friends that they can talk to or engage in non-caregiving activities with. Finally, men tend to deal with depression symptoms with alcohol or by overworking.
In addition to the debilitating symptoms of depression, there is also the stigma that this condition carries with it – which makes it all the more dangerous, as well as all the more important to discuss it with a mental healthcare provider in order to get a proper diagnosis. There are several treatment options to help caregivers cope with depression.
Treatments for depression
- Cognitive and behavioral therapy.
- Interpersonal therapy.
- Psychodynamic therapy.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI).
· Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
· Alternative treatments
- Phototherapy (for Seasonal Affective Disorder).
· Establish realistic goals.
· Set limits for how much responsibility you assume.
· Set priorities.
· Break one large task into several smaller ones.
· Confide in someone you trust.
· Do things you can enjoy such as reading, listening to music, watching a movie or a sporting match, getting a hobby, etc.
· Exercise regularly.
· Get enough sleep.
As caregiver, you may not have time for the above activities. If that is the case, then you should make the time. For example, if the loved one that you provide care for keeps you up at night, try to catch 40 winks during the day. This is where a secondary caregiver or some form of respite care comes in handy, so as to allow you to get much needed and much deserved rest without neglecting the person with dementia. Speaking of time, it is important to realize that depression does not go away overnight, though a depressed person can feel a little bit better with each passing day. And speaking of respite care, it is also noteworthy that depression may linger despite – and because of – the fact that person with dementia has been moved to a care facility. Though this decision may leave you feeling stressed and guilty, it is often the right thing to do for the sakes of both caregiver and care receiver.