Fighting Depression During Caregiving


Fighting Depression During Caregiving

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 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 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.

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My wife who is my caree has had many medical challenges throughout our 25 years of marriage. So, I look back and see that I have been a caregiver throughout intermittently. She has also been a caregiver to me. She helped me with my mood disorder, first diagnosed in my early 20's. When my wife's medical conditions became chronically debilitating and I had to make the heart-shattering decision to have her placed in long term care, my mood disorder became severely exacerbated. I already had a psychiatrist, thank God. The next thing was to ask for help from my family and hers. I realized I could not handle this alone. Her prior medical issues over the years were ones that she was able to bounce back. This time that was not the case. I looked for caregiving support on the internet and found I enlisted help from whomever I needed it from to help me accomplish the things I needed to get done. I got help from an Elder Life Management private agency to help apply for Medicaid and for other case management help. So, getting help in the beginning of my caregiving journey ( I didn't really have a name for it at that time) was essential. It still is. I had to let go of trying to do everything myself and learn to rely on others. It was such a relief. I didn't have to feel inadequate because I needed help. I continue to deal with the sadness with my wife, the psychiatrist I see, and now, a therapist I just began seeing. I also have done my share of crying and being comforted by family. My friends are very supportive and there for me. I'm learning to be there more for myself as I relied a lot on my wife over the years and also spent many years helping others and just took things in some ways for granted. I had gone through a lot of trials over the years or tough times and I was fortunately able to bounce back. Nothing could have prepared me for what's happened. We both were going along, happy, working, enjoying our rescued dogs and cats over the years, being together with family, etc. Then whammo!!!! My mother-in-law passed away, my wife began a slow progression down hill, financial stress, process of our house on the market as a short sale and more.... With the sadness is a lot of deep pain. I feel it every day. I eat well, sleep well, exercise (not as much as I should), manage the multitude of tasks, spend time with my wife, advocate for her when she needs it; etc. I rely on my Higher Power, my family, what I'm learning to take care of myself, our web-site when I can get here. I have not yet been able to hook up with a support group yet. Writing helps a lot. So does having a routine and structure. I've learned from something called Dialectical Behavior Therapy to experience my feelings without judgment, listen to educational audio programs on subjects that provide me with knowledge and skills, reading, getting back to some of the things I used to enjoy doing that I let go by the wayside. I had previously felt like it was almost sacrilegious to think of things I used to enjoy, especially with my wife's suffering. But how else was I going to bring water to my parched soul. For all who suffer depression on this journey, you are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. Denise's suggestions are right on!!! Don't forget to ask for help. And don't forget to write or blog about things you are experiencing that you think are shameful and unspeakable. Chances are many of us have been or are there and we can help one another out. Peace be with you on your journey. Sincerely, Bob