Depression is defined as a medical illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in life. Caregivers of people with dementia are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared to people caring for someone without dementia. The more severe the case of dementia, the more likely the caregiver will experience depression.
The constant attention, care and supervision that is required to take care of someone with Alzheimer’s often leads to personal stress and physical health problems and may leave you with little time to do what you enjoy, to rest or to spend with family and friends. In addition, caregiving often disrupts professional and personal responsibilities. All of this can take its toll on your personal health.
Depression is a medical illness and as such has a wide variety of symptoms. Individuals with depression may experience some or all of these symptoms. As a caregiver have you recently experienced any of the following?
- Feelings of sadness, unhappiness, guilt or worthlessness
- Feelings of agitation, irritability or frustration
- Disturbed sleep, insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
- Difficulty focusing, thinking or concentrating
- Loss of energy and general fatigue
- Crying spells, for no apparent reason
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment such as headaches, digestive disorder and pain
- Thoughts of death and dying or suicide
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, seek medical attention for treatment, which may include medications and counseling. In addition to professional help, as a caregiver let others assist you with the tasks or caregiving. Say yes to help and ask for help! Investigate and look for supportive caregiver resources and also respite services. And, please take time away from your caregiving duties to relax and participate in activities that bring you joy.
It is only by taking care of yourself and preserving your own health that you will be able to provide care for your loved one.