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Caregiver Depression: A Silent Health Crisis

Caregiver Depression: A Silent Health Crisis

In honor of World Suicide Prevention Day, we wanted to address a very important and relevant topic—caregiver depression.  A conservative estimate reports 20% of family caregivers to suffer from depression, twice the rate of the general population.  This is a health crisis that needs to be brought to light.

Sometimes in an effort to provide the best care for friends or family, caregivers sacrifice their own physical and emotional needs which can strain even the most capable person.  The resulting feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, isolation, exhaustion, and then guilt for having these feelings. Unfortunately, feelings of depression are often seen as a sign of weakness rather than a sign that something is out of balance. Ignoring or denying your feelings will not make them go away.

People experience depression in different ways and can change over time. The following symptoms, if experienced for more than 2 consecutive weeks, may indicate depression.

  • Change in eating habits resulting in unwanted weight gain or loss
  • Change in sleep patterns—too much or too little sleep
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • A loss of interest in people and/or activities that once brought you joy
  • Becoming easily agitated or angered or feeling that nothing you do is good enough
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Ongoing physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment such as headache, GI, pain

Early attention to symptoms of depression may help to prevent the development of more serious depression and/or suicidal thoughts. Respite care relief, positive feedback from others, positive self-talk, and recreational activates are helpful in avoiding depression. Remember, people don’t often “snap out of” depression so if you are feeling any of these signs please reach out to a professional for help.  It’s never something to be ashamed of.