Recognizing and Preventing Depression When You Are a Family Caregiver
The physical and emotional demands of providing care for a senior loved one can cause even the most ardent caregiver to feel a little blue from time to time. Being responsible for the health and wellbeing of a person you love is daunting. A caregiver might worry that they aren’t doing a good job meeting their loved one’s needs or fear they will forget something important, such as an appointment or a medication dosage.
Winter can add another dimension to caregiving stress. A caregiver might be hesitant to take their loved one out on cold days. This leads to isolation for both the caregiver and their loved one.
If you are a spouse or adult child caregiver, learning how to recognize the warning signs of caregiver depression and what you can do to prevent it is important.
Nine Warning Signs of Caregiver Depression
Here are a few of the most common early warning signs of caregiver depression:
- Unintended weight gain or loss
- Feeling resentful of the person you are a caregiver for
- Stomachaches and digestive problems
- Quick to become angry or agitated
- Sleep problems—sleeping too much or too little
- A deep sense of fatigue that doesn’t improve with sleep
- Feeling inadequate in your caregiver role
- Frequent headaches
- Loss of interest in favorite activities and pastimes
If you are a caregiver who is experiencing a few of these symptoms, it might be time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They will determine the best form of treatment to get you back on a healthier track.
Seven Steps to Prevent Caregiver Depression during the Winter
Caregivers aren’t always aware that they are at increased risk for developing depression, especially if the person being cared for has dementia. Depression is a normal response to being in a difficult situation. But there are steps you can take to lower the odds you will develop depression:
- Ask for and accept help from friends, family members, and even professional caregivers.
- Explore respite services at assisted living communities in your area, as well as adult daycare programs.
- Commit to an indoor exercise program during the winter, such as walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, or streaming an online fitness class.
- Master healthy breathing techniques through methods such as meditation, yoga, or Pilates.
- Learn how to journal and spend a few minutes writing every morning or evening.
- Make time for laughter, whether by spending time with friends or watching your favorite sitcoms.
- Connect with an online support group of peers who understand and empathize with your situation.
If you have questions about caregiving, the Family Caregiver Alliance has a variety of online resources that can help. You can also visit The Sunrise Blog for the latest news and research on caregiving.