Caring for a family member or friend who is living with a memory disorder is a labor of love. The decision to do so is made for many reasons, most often because loved ones feel a deep emotional need to embark on this often rewarding, but challenging pursuit. While it can feel very good to be able to support a loved one in a time of need, providing constant help can take its toll on caregivers. After all, providing care around the clock to someone with a memory disorder calls for long hours, hard work and the willingness to face unpredictability. As time passes, the work can be very emotionally draining.
The American Psychological Association estimates about 40 to 70 percent of family caregivers will experience the symptoms of depression. Another 25 to 50 percent may show signs of major depression as the emotional drains of caregiving take serious tolls. The effects are often felt, the APA points out, due to the overtaxing caregivers are likely to face. Most dedicate at least 20 hours a week to providing care to their loved ones. This part-time commitment is generally performed on top of a regular workweek. Essentially, caregiving is likely to leave caregivers with very little time to rest and provide care for themselves. Caregivers may find their sleeping habits disrupted, anxiety levels higher, eating schedules off kilter and more. All of that adds up to a real concern for caregiver health.
Caregivers facing depression, healthcare providers say, may not even realize it. As they are pulled in multiple directions, trying to do their best each day, they may overlook some common symptoms. The telltale signs to look for include:
Experiencing sadness, hopelessness or emptiness on a regular basis
Demonstrating major changes in sleeping habits
Having difficulty focusing
A sense of fatigue that does not go away no matter how much rest is enjoyed
A loss of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyable
Feeling agitated or being easily agitated
Caregivers who suspect they are displaying signs of depression are urged to seek out medical advice. Treatments are available to address the symptoms and help empower caregivers with better ways to cope with the stresses they face. Medications, therapy and seeking out respite care for loved ones to ensure breaks are enjoyed when they are needed can all be helpful.
Caregiving is a labor of love. Caregivers, however, must remember that their health matters, too. If depression is a concern, help is available. Seeking out assistance can be important for ensuring caregiver health and the best possible care for the loved one living with a memory disorder.