The Stress of Family Caregiving
Despite the many rewards of caregiving, it is no secret that it can be stressful both emotionally and physically for the person providing care.
Your feelings may seem to be of the least importance when a loved one is suffering through cancer, recovering from a severe injury or dealing with another type of illness or disability.
However, the quality of their life depends on the quality of yours in many ways, so it is important to stay in touch with your emotions and ensure that the challenges of caregiving don't bring you down.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers who are looking after someone with dementia are twice as likely to suffer from depression as a person caring for someone without dementia. In addition, research has shown that women experience depression at a higher rate than men, and lack of sleep has been proven to contribute to the condition.
It is important to note that experiencing feelings of sadness, grief or loneliness is normal for caregivers. While caregiving does not cause depression and not all caregivers experience negative feelings, it is normal for the effort of trying to provide the best for someone else to take a toll on your mental and physical well-being.
Negative feelings like these come and go and are not considered depression. However, when the feelings become more intense, long-lasting and cause the caregiver to become easily upset - either crying or becoming angered easily - depression may be on the horizon. Other symptoms to look for include a change in eating habits or unwanted weight gain or loss, a change in sleep patterns, fatigue, becoming easily agitated, thoughts of death or suicide, a loss of interest in people or activities that once brought you pleasure. If any of these symptoms last longer than two weeks, you should seek help, whether from a friend, physician or psychologist.
Early attention to symptoms of depression can reduce them and prevent a more serious onslaught. Exercise, a healthy diet and the support of family and friends may help pull some people from a minor state of sadness. Enlisting the help of a mental health professional even if you do not think your symptoms are severe is also a good way to make sure you stay happy and healthy in order to provide the best care to your loved on. Hiring someone for some respite care can also give you and the person you are caring for a much need break and allow you to collect yourself.