A recent study by the University of Eastern Finland found that family caregivers who were suffering from depression – even the mildest case – at the time their loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s had a more difficult time coping with the diagnosis and providing care. Researchers said these findings underscore the need for caregivers to be mindful of their own physical and mental health and seek support for psychological stress.
Know the signs of depression. According to WebMD, symptoms can include:
- Sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Irritability, restlessness, and anxiety
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest in once pleasurable hobbies or activities
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, waking up during the night, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease, even with treatment
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Find a treatment that works for you and your lifestyle.
- Eat a balanced diet. Be sure you are eating foods rich in antioxidants — broccoli, blueberries, spinach — that help slow free radical damage to the brain. Also, incorporate smart carbs into your diet. Carbs have been linked to mood enhancement.
- Get up and move. Exercise is one of the best antidepressants. Whether it’s yoga, biking, golf or dancing, exercise releases endorphins that trigger positive feelings.
- Try relaxation techniques. Meditation, deep breathing and massage therapy have all been shown to relieve stress.
- Seek medical help. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to your primary care physician or a mental health professional. Fortunately mental healthcare is now covered by most insurance carriers.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Join an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group. Support groups not only allow you a safe place to vent, ask questions and get advice, but they also provide a crucial social outlet to keep caregivers from suffering from isolation, which also leads to depression.
- If you feel yourself getting stressed out or overwhelmed, ask family and friends to take over a few of your caregiving tasks.
- Use respite care. Caregivers by Wholecare can provide respite care or in-home care for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Our services range from medication reminders and help with daily activities to meal preparation and transportation.