How to keep caregiver strain from snowballing into depression
Being the sole or primary caregiver of an ailing loved one can be rewarding, but it can also be extremely stressful. The tasks and challenges involved—from bathing, toileting, and feeding to managing medications and doctors' appointments and coping with difficult behaviors—are frequently overwhelming.
Caregivers also often sacrifice their own physical and emotional needs in an effort to provide the best possible care for their loved ones. The resulting anger, anxiety, sadness, isolation, and exhaustion—as well as the guilt for feeling this way—exact a heavy toll that can lead to depression.
The Burden of Caregiving
More than 50 million Americans are caregivers for a family member, and seven million are taking care of someone age 65 and older who needs assistance with daily activities because of a stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or cancer. Unfortunately, research also indicates that 40 to 70% of family caregivers of older adults have symptoms of depression, with between one quarter and one half of them meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression. Those who care for individuals with dementia are at especially high risk.
And it's a vicious circle, because being depressed or under heavy emotional stress is known to have a negative impact on the well-being of the person being cared for—which in turn puts a heavier burden on the caregiver.