Depression and Caregiving: A Powerful Combination

Depression is a risk to family caregivers, especially families caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Families in this situation are faced with ongoing losses on the part of their family member and the stress of providing care over a long time period while meeting their loved one's ever increasing needs.

Many of us commonly use to the word "depression" to mean feeling sad. This can lead to a lot of confusion and minimize the effects of this serious illness. The stress of caring for a family member can trigger depression in a person who already has risk factors.

Common risk factors are:

  • A family history of depression. There is a genetic component.
  • If you have had clinical depression before, it can reoccur.
  • Major lifestyle changes, stress and loss.
  • Suffering from low self-esteem and a negative outlook increases your risk.
  • Having a serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, and HIV can contribute.
  • Suffering from other psychological disorders such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and substance abuse.

All caregivers will experience feelings of deep sadness and overwhelming tiredness which can also be symptoms of depression. The only way to know for sure if you are experiencing more than normal grief or high levels of caregiver stress is to discuss your feelings and symptoms with your doctor.

When in doubt, have the conversation with your doctor. Here is a link to a simple screening tool to help you get started.

Keep in mind that many of the healthy habits to help you manage caregiver stress can also help you offset the effects of any risk factors you may have.

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