Caregivers and Depression
It is not surprising that many family caregivers experience depression. As a caregiver, you are in a very difficult position. The sympathy of friends and the concern of healthcare providers are focused on your loved one – while no one is paying much attention to how you may be affected by the very upsetting changes that have occurred in your life.
As time goes on you may begin to feel lonely and unappreciated. These feelings, coupled with the knowledge that your caregiving duties might well last a lifetime, set you up as a prime target for depression.
Of course, not all caregivers get depressed, but many do. As many as 72% of caregivers of loved ones with rare diseases report feelings of depression. Rare disease caregivers who provide care 36 or more hours a week are more likely than non-caregivers to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. For those caring for a parent, the rate of depression is twice as high; and for spouses the rate is six times higher.
So if you are one of the many caregivers of a loved one with a rare disease who occasionally suffers from depression, you are not alone. Depression is an all-too-common consequence of caregiving.
If you are one of the caregivers who suffer from depression, you can ask "why me?" but you may never truly know the answer. The more important question to ask is: what can you do about depression once it has seemingly taken over your life?
Seeking help is the most important step, but admittedly it is not always easy. The very symptoms of depression, such as lethargy and hopelessness, can rob you of your will to seek help. You may be embarrassed by what you believe is the stigma of depression, and simply deny that anything is wrong. Or perhaps you've been blue for so long that you think it's normal to feel bad. These can all keep you from taking that most important first step – getting help.
If you think you are suffering from depression, or know someone who is, get help. Depression is curable, but you can't do it alone. If the thought of trying to figure out how you'll ever find exactly the right treatment seems too daunting, don't be discouraged. Realize that even the simplest act can set you on the road to recovery, and that may be all you are up to at first. Rare disease caregivers have told us that sometimes changes in their daily routine have helped to alleviate their depression.
The most important thing is to realize you need help and reach out to get it. There are resources that can start you down the path to recovery and a happier life.
Taking a short walk, getting enough sleep, and remembering to eat regular meals can be difficult to do, but can have positive impacts on depression.
Try telling a friend or family member about your feelings or making a list of things that are bothering you.
Through therapy, support groups or on-line forums you can grieve for what you have lost, and deal with your anger and sadness.
You can come to accept not only the realities of your life as a caregiver, but its possibilities as well.
In reaching out to help others, you can discover a part of yourself you might otherwise never have known.
Medications can help, too, if necessary.