The caregiver is often the last person to get care for themselves. Maybe it’s because you are so busy making everything perfect for everyone else; making everyone else feel comfortable, happy and loved. Caregiving is a selfless task carried out by unselfish people who are abundantly filled with good intentions.
But this caregiving business can be rough at times. It can drain your energy and your spirit. It can get completely overwhelming when you are giving 110% all the time. As a result, nearly 20% of all caregivers suffer from some form of depression either during caregiving or after caregiving has ceased. Sometimes it lasts up to three years or more.
As a caregiver, it is vital that you remain healthy, well rested and mentally capable of providing care for your loved one. Caregiving does not cause depression. But when caregivers get caught up in the web of trying to do everything themselves, they become overtired and often isolated from people who care about them. Even the most capable people can become angry, sad, lonely and anxious.
Of course, people experience depression in different ways and in varying degrees. It can change over time as well. Ask yourself these questions:
– What are your eating habits like? Have they changed dramatically causing unusual weight gain or loss?
– Are you tired all the time?
– How is your sleep? Do you seem to want to sleep all the time or is your sleep interrupted on a regular basis?
– Does it seem like you get angry or agitated easily?
– Have you lost your love for things that used to bring you joy?
– Do you feel like you aren’t good enough or that nothing you do is good enough?
– Do you seem to have chronic pain, headaches, digestive issues?
If you found your answer to several of these was “Yes,” it might be a good idea to talk to someone who is qualified to diagnose and treat depression. A professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist can assess your condition and suggest therapeutic methods to help you with your symptoms.
Remember, depression is not something to be embarrassed about. Sometimes people feel embarrassed and don’t seek treatment because they are ashamed. These embarrassing feelings can turn to guilt that can damage self-esteem.
Besides seeking the advice of a professional, also look into respite care for yourself. Check with your hospice team. They can lend a hand and take some of the load off your shoulders. Ask family and friends to take over so you can have a break to do something you enjoy. Find a good support group in order to learn coping skills.
As a caregiver, it is so important that you take care of yourself so that you can provide care for your loved one. Your emotional and physical needs should not be sacrificed in your role as caregiver. There is a way to get balance back into your life. Ask for help. Defeat depression. Turn your role as caregiver back into the positive experience it should be.