Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recognizing the Signs of Caregiver Depression

For those who care for elderly family members, life can be stressful. Couple the responsibilities of caregiving with work obligations and attending to children’s needs and the process can be overwhelming. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of caregiver depression and burnout, and to react accordingly. Some signs that a caregiver is experiencing depression include:

  • Withdrawal from other family members, friends, and loved ones
  • Loss of interest in activities that they previously loved
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Bouts of anger for no apparent reason
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Feelings of anger toward the person you’re caring for
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Weight loss or gain

In some cases, a caregiver who is experiencing burnout and exhaustion may turn to escapist behaviors, like heavy drinking, promiscuity, or drug use. Elder care professionals explain that many family members feel the need to escape from the demands of caring for their senior and turn to unhealthy outlets in order to relax and feel free.

How to cope

Caregivers get into trouble because they spend so much time focusing on the health and well-being of their elderly family member that they neglect their own needs. It’s important for a caregiver to carve out some time for self-care each day. Whether this means seeing friends, reading a book, taking a nap, or watching a favorite TV show, this time is crucial for restoring that caregiver’s mental health.

Asking for help is another part of fighting off caregiver depression and burnout. There is no shame in having a home care professional come in a few days per week to help with the burden of caretaking. They can assist with bathing, cleaning the home, and taking care of other errands that the elderly individual can’t handle on their own. This ensures that the senior is well cared for, but gives the family member a break. Having help even just a few days per week can make a major difference for caregivers.

While it’s important to keep the focus on the elderly family member’s health and safety, a caregiver can’t neglect their own needs. Doing so can leave the person feeling depressed and desperate. Taking time each day to indulge in favorite hobbies is a major part of successful caregiving. 

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