Fighting Depression During Caregiving

Denise
depressed-woman-public-domainMolly has been helping her mom, Sally, over the past few years. She loves her mom and loves spending time with her. But, lately, Molly finds herself dragging, lethargic. She almost dreads seeing her mom, whose recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's has left her mom teary-eyed and sad.

Molly has been working with her mom's physician to find a treatment to help Sally's depression. Molly wonders, though, about her own emotional state. Whenever she looks in the mirror, she sees her mom's lost eyes.

How can I be depressed, Molly wonders, I have my health.

I'm often asked by family caregivers about their own response to a family member's diagnosis and decline. "I didn't realize I would be so affected by this," they'll say. "Why am I depressed?"

You may not have the diagnosis, but the impact of the diagnosis on your well-being can be significant. Watching a family member in pain, in confusion, lose their former selves is depressing.

When a family member struggles, so can you. And, it's important to take steps to ease your own feelings of loss and sadness.

Some suggestions to help:

1. Become a part of a supportive community that understands. You'll feel alone when you're helping an aging relative. Solitude won't bring comfort--but only add loneliness and, at times, a feeling of despair. Check with local organizations, especially disease-specific ones like the Alzheimer's Association, about support groups. If your caree resides in a facility, check with the facility staff about support groups which can help you. Online support groups can be a great resource, too. (We have several groups at Caregiving.com.) Check out a few options to give yourself a chance to find the right support. Once you find the right support, continue to go back. The best resource for you will be another in a similar situation.

2. See your doctor about your depression. Your doctor can screen you for depression and offer treatment options and suggestions. And, see your doctor sooner rather than later so you can feel better sooner rather than later.

3. Find a counselor or coach who can help you. In a tough time like this, you'll need coping strategies. The problem is, you may not have had to develop coping strategies for a tough time like this. A professional, like a therapist or life coach, can help you find the coping strategies that work for you.

4. Move. The movement can help you feel better. A 30-minute walk can do wonders for your perspective and your perseverance.

5. Journal or blog. Writing about your days can help you better understand the details of your day. And, in the writing, you can release those awful emotions, like anger and resentment, which can seem to hold you hostage. (Members of Caregiving.com can begin a blog; you'll find details on how to start your blog here.)

6. Give yourself a break. Matthew, who cares for his mom and cared for his dad until his dad's death, spent much of his dad's last days with him in the hospital. To make it through the 16-hour days, Matthew gave himself a break every four hours. He'd sit in the chair in his dad's room and close his eyes. Sometimes he slept. Sometimes, he merely quieted his mind and released his worries. Breaking up his day into segments allowed him to regain a feeling of control.

How do you manage the sadness of your experience? Please share your coping strategies in our comments section, below.

Join our mailing list

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter that includes caregiving tips, news, support and more.