Caring for your senior loved one is a demanding job. It is exhausting and stressful and it can result in feelings of isolation and resentment. You are offering a high level of care for your senior loved one, but caring for the caregiver is what ensures that you can continue to do your job well.
The low feelings that can accompany the caregiver role can easily slide downward into depression. The risk for depression among caregivers, says the National Institutes of Health is 30 times higher when compared to individuals not in a caregiver role. The risk of depression is particularly high for those that care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Caring for the Family Caregiver means that you take steps to protect your mental health as you provide care for your senior loved one. You may be tempted to shrug off your own concerns, but providing excellent, loving care requires that you be in good mental and physical health.
Some ideas for combating depression include:
- Don’t let the negativity have the final say. When you encounter thoughts that devalue your role, don’t let it be the reigning thought. If your thinking trends to phrases such as, “I can’t even get one thing done today,” combat it with, “Yes, but I spent time playing cards with Mom and that’s important too.”
- Take a break. You need to find someone that can take your place for a few hours so that you can meet a friend, go to a ballgame or catch a movie. Part of caring for the caregiver is helping you stay in touch with your normal life.
- Document your feelings. If you begin to journal your emotions in a diary, you may begin to notice patterns aligned with events, people or circumstances. You may find that when you are low on sleep, you are particularly vulnerable to a low mood. Visits to the doctor may also take a toll, introducing reminders of a loved one’s condition or simply a tiring few hours spent getting to the appointment and back.
- Seek help. Depression is not something to navigate alone. Caring for the caregiver requires that you have good mental health. A professional therapist can help you determine whether your low mood meets criteria for depression or if there are tools you can use to improve a mood at home.
- Start something productive. If you are feeling overwhelmed by laundry, groceries and other day-to-day work, you may improve your mental health by starting a project that allows you to take a step back. A scrapbook or decorating project may help you regain your footing, reminding you why you chose to become your loved one’s caregiver and providing an opportunity to reflect on positive events.
Depression is a serious mental disorder that may require treatment. If you feel that your low mood may require attention, Freudenthal Home Health is here to assist you in providing care for your senior loved one while you seek care for you.