It’s common for caregivers to sacrifice their own needs in an effort to better care for an aging loved one. Caring for someone who cared for you growing up is very rewarding. Without help, however, this approach can backfire.

Simply put, caregivers often become overwhelmed and depressed. Research shows that up to 70% of caregivers experience symptoms of depression.

Common Signs of Caregiver Depression

A few common symptoms of caregiver depression include:

  • Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Chronic fatigue or caregiver burnout
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

It’s essential to manage these symptoms before they become more serious.

Avoiding Caregiver Depression

Here are a few steps family caregivers can take to avoid caregiver depression:

  • Make sleep a priority.

Many caregivers struggle to get enough sleep. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including time restraints and stress-related insomnia. Regardless of the reason, sleep deprivation can significantly worsen symptoms of depression. Aiming to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night is an excellent start to improving your health. 

  • Eat a healthy diet.

There is a strong correlation between diet and depression. Those who eat nutritious foods are less likely to suffer from depression than those who consume a diet high in processed foods and sugar. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a simple way to improve a diet.

  • Exercise regularly.

Exercise can do wonders for your mental health. Not only does it relieve stress by releasing endorphins, but regular exercise has also been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep. To reap the benefits, get at least twenty minutes of physical activity every day.

  • Spend time with friends and family.

Socializing is crucial to your overall health and well-being. Unfortunately, many caregivers feel guilty making it a priority. Other common excuses include being too tired or feeling disconnected from friends who don’t understand the difficulties of being a caregiver. Spending even a few hours a week with friends and family, however, can help restore the spirit and make you a better caregiver.

  • Make time for yourself.

To provide the best care possible, it’s crucial for caregivers to take care of themselves. In addition to sleeping, exercising, socializing, and eating healthy, caregivers should take time to relax. Booking a massage, watching television, or taking a vacation are great ways to unwind.

  • Take advantage of respite care.

If your caregiving role is having a negative impact on your mental health, it may be time to explore local assisted living communities. Many caregivers can benefit from respite care programs that give loved ones a temporary place to stay while you take time to care for yourself.

When Depression Hits

Depression in caregivers is far too common. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression that last longer than two weeks, it’s best to consult your doctor or consider counseling for caregivers. They can help you come up with a treatment plan suited to your needs.

To learn more about assisted living options, including respite care, contact one of our local senior care advisors. Call 800-304-8061 to take advantage of our complimentary services.