How To Keep Dementia Or Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s Depression At Bay

Depression is very common among caregivers.  This is because being a caregiver is a largely thankless job, and it is very difficult emotionally.  Many different feelings come up while you’re caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s, from stress and anger, to guilt and grief.  Unfortunately, all of those emotions lead down the same road, and that road is to depression.

To help keep depression at bay, you must first recognize the different signs of it.  If you have four or more of the following symptoms, you should go to a doctor.  The first trait common among those that are entering depression is irritability.  For example, little things that didn’t use to bug you are starting to.  Next, the caregiver may start to feel worthless; being that besides helping people, there is very little reward in caring for someone.  The caregiver may also start to feel really guilty, believing that they’re not doing enough for the patient.  The caregiver’s thoughts may become decidedly darker, delving into things such as suicide.  Simple motor skills will become more difficult, and sleep will not come.  Insomnia is present in a few of those who are depressed.  A general lethargy may come over the caregiver.  Activities that previously were very pleasurable for the caregiver, such as sports, will lose all their attractiveness.  The caregiver may have difficulty either thinking or concentrating.  Lastly, as far as exterior changes go, the caregiver’s appetite may change dramatically, causing their weight to change.

If the caregiver has depression, they should immediately go to the doctor to figure out just what is causing the depression – it may not even be related to the Alzheimer’s victim.  But then again, the depression could very well be linked.  You have to know what you’re dealing with before you can fight it.  Once you know what’s causing it, there are a variety of ways to treat it, which your doctor will know more about.

However, there are some things that you can do before depression strikes.  These things you can do to keep yourself happy, and keep depression at bay.

First, know that there are others around that are more than willing to help you out.  These things can range from adult daycare to in-home assistance.  You don’t have to do it all by yourself.  Also, be sure to educate yourself.  As Alzheimer’s progresses into the later stages, new skills will become necessary, and old skills will become more valuable.  Make sure you’re prepared for this change.

It’s important to remember to not just take care of the patient, but to take care of yourself as well.  Make sure you’re watching your diet and exercise, and that you’re getting plenty of sleep.  Give yourself time to do things that you enjoy – maybe go out for a round of golf, or go shopping.  Just find something that isn’t related to being a caregiver.  It’s ok to do things for yourself once in a while.

Watch out for stress.  Stress is the cause of more problems than people expect.  The more stressed you are, the more likely you’re to become agitated, and the less likely you are to think clearly.  Make sure you’re managing your stress properly.  Maybe find something like yoga or meditation, or some other form of relaxation technique.  The results you can get from following some techniques are profound.

Be willing to accept changes that may occur in the patient.  Sometimes, something may happen, and you alone will not be enough to take care of the situation.  That is ok.  It’s ok for a caregiver to ask for help, and it should be readily available.

Make sure that all the legal and financial planning that can possibly be done is finished.  If you haven’t already consulted an attorney, than consult one.  Do whatever you possibly can, and it will free your mind.

Finally, be realistic, and give yourself credit.  The situation may not be perfect, but you have to realize that you are doing everything in your power to help the patient, and because of it, that patient is living a better life than they normally would.  Being a caregiver is not an easy task, and you deserve full credit just for doing it.