Caregiver Depression–A Silent Epidemic
Last month we wrote about tips to ease caregiver stress. As I said then, issues surrounding caregiving are important to us here at MedFlight911 in part because many of the patients who use our air ambulance service require some form of convalescent care (designed to help people recover from serious illness, surgery or injury) or end-of-life care.
So look to the MedFlight911 blog for regular posts about caregiving. Today I’d like to focus on caregiver depression. According to estimates from the Family Caregiver Alliance, 20 percent of family caregivers suffer from depression – that is twice the rate of the general population.
A heavy toll
Let’s be clear: caregiving does not, in and of itself, cause depression. Nor will every caregiver experience depression. But, in general, caregivers often sacrifice their own physical, emotional and psychological needs to provide the best care possible. That sometimes results in feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, isolation, and often utter exhaustion – which can sometimes trigger depression. Whether you’re taking care of a parent, a spouse, a child, or some other loved one, the fact is that being solely responsible for every aspect of a person’s care 24/7, no matter how much you love that person, can be really hard.
Signs of depression
People experience depression in different ways; the type and degree of symptoms vary by individual and can change over time. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following signs and symptoms, if experienced for more than two consecutive weeks, may indicate depression:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Irritability of frustration, even over small matters
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Agitation and restlessness
- Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy – even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For a complete depression screening checklist, click here.
What to do if you think you have depression
Depression is a medical illness and should be treated as such. Telling yourself to “snap out of it” or “it’s all in your head” will not help. The first and best step for treating depression is to meet with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor) and a medical professional. Together, they will develop a plan to help you deal with your depression.
You deserve to be taken care of, too. By taking care of you, you are guaranteeing better care for your loved one.