With a rapidly aging population, more and more middle aged adults find themselves sandwiched between the demands of providing care for aging parents and raising their own children or staying on top of their career. It is common for the stress of managing all of these demands or being the sole caregiver for an elderly family member to lead to depression.
Caregiving can be extremely difficult, and complicated, when the roles of parent and child reverse and especially if dementia causes a decline in cognitive abilities of an aging family member. It’s a stressful and often physically and emotionally challenging role and many caregivers experience depression under the weight of providing ceaseless care and not having enough time for themselves.
A recent Chinese study, published in the September 2017 volume of the British Geriatrics Society journal Age and Ageing, found that caregiver symptoms of depression were significantly lessened when they stopped providing parent or spousal care. The findings underline the growing need for caregivers to create a support system for themselves, make time for self-care and stay connected with their communities.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression to help caregivers get the medical attention they need. Both the caregiver and the person receiving care are at risk when depression is left untreated.
Symptoms of Depression
- Becoming easily agitated or frustrated
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Thoughts of death, dying or suicide
- Disturbed sleep
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain
Source: American Psychiatric Association
The good news is that depression can be treated. Visiting a doctor at the first signs of depression can help rule out medical conditions with similar symptoms. Treatment with medication, counseling and support can help caregivers learn how to better manage their stress and start feeling better.