For Caregivers, Depression Is a Very Real Risk

Those who provide daily care to an adult who is mentally ill or physically impaired experience a high level of stress and emotional pressure, and are vulnerable to depression as a result. Two new studies show how caregiving influences the mental health and well being of adult caregivers. The first study addresses depression among caregivers of adults with serious mental illness. This study looked at finding a way to recognize depression in its early stages, so that the caregiver could pursue counseling and therapy, or otherwise address the developing depression, before it deepened. Preventing serious depression benefits caregivers as individuals, but also benefits the person they are caring for, says the study. If the caregiver becomes depressed, the person they are caring for will likely suffer a decreased quality of life as well.

The second study looked specifically at adult children caring for a parent recovering from stroke. Among this group, daughters were found as more prone to depression than were sons. In addition, the quality of parent-child relationship before the parent suffered a stroke had a direct impact on the likeliness of depression after the stroke. Daughters with more positive relationships with the parent were less likely to become depressed while caring for that parent.

Providing adequate mental health care to caregivers is highly important. Bearing the stress of caring for any adult who needs assistance, whether for mental or psychological reasons, is a large responsibility for anyone to bear. When this person is a family member, family strains and old tensions can make the caregiving relationship even more complicated and stressful for the caregiver. And in the case of those caring for a loved one with mental illness, social stigma surrounding mental illness in general may add an element of shame, embarrassment, or isolation to an already demanding role. Caregivers play an essential role in the health, well-being, and quality of life of those who need that care. Providing ample support, through preventive counseling, recognizing depression, and psychological therapy opportunities, will benefit the caregiver directly, and also the person under his or her care.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • natalie

    natalie

    August 17th, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    I always wondered how the hospital staff would feel to be around sick people all the time every single day.I just can’t stay in a hospital for more than a few minutes.I feel the very environment there is depressing and could pull me down.It really is the call of duty that keeps the hospital staff going.They need to be applauded for their services.

  • Jacqueline

    Jacqueline

    August 17th, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    My neighbor had a stroke at the very young age of 56 and it’s very hard on his family to see this once active man unable to even speak now. They won’t get outside help with his care although it’s there for the asking. I can see his wife getting more and more depressed as time passes. The repercussions of a stroke affect the entire family.

  • alana

    alana

    August 17th, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    That reluctance is understandable. My aunt had a stroke and was a very proud woman. She was never good with strangers. In my heart I know she wouldn’t want them caring for her when she had family that could do so. That is a big reason why some caregivers don’t seek out help. They remember how the person was prior to the stroke and want to respect their wishes just as much after it as they would have before.

  • Elizabeth

    Elizabeth

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    Devotion is all very noble and I’m not belittling that in any way. However the caregivers do need to give themselves a break too. Caregiving is very stressful and the person often requires round the clock attention. You can’t get them your best if you’re not at your best yourself.

  • ANNA

    ANNA

    August 17th, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    @natalie:I share that very feeling. But we should also note that not only the hospital staff, but even regular people deal with taking care of sick individuals and I believe it is even worse. Even worse because they are seeing their own family member in that condition, being sick, requiring help, seeing someone who was very normal turn into someone who needs help for most things. It can get very depressing and I strongly believe a well-knit family can face this situation much better than one that isn’t.

  • Marianne

    Marianne

    August 17th, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    The professionals that can offer help are well trained in dealing with patients. They are not casual in their approach. I too was against getting help for my husband. I felt that was my job as his wife. On our wedding day we had vowed “in sickness and in health”. Our children however insisted we had additional outside help to alleviate the strain. (They don’t live locally.)I agreed eventually because they wore me down and it was the best thing I ever did for us both.

  • Dawna

    Dawna

    August 18th, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    I have five brothers but when my mother got sick all of them looked to me to help out the most, stay with her, rides to the doctor, etc. She would not assent to going to an assisted care facility so that left us to care for her. Well it really left me because it seemed no one else had the time to help look after and care for her. That was such a draining experience for me and I know that I battled my own depression during this time. I was not given the chance to enjoy being with my mother during her final time here with us- instead I was stretched thin by all sides and in the end just wanted it to all be over. I loved my mother very much but I never realized just how emotionally and physically challenging it can be to look after someone in this way.

  • HO

    HO

    August 18th, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    Its sad that people who help others kind of get affected and get depressed because of the mental turmoil that comes with the looking after.Maybe a little counseling can help.

  • Fran

    Fran

    August 19th, 2010 at 12:18 AM

    Caregivers, please don’t let a sense of pride or duty prevent you from accessing support. You do not have to go it alone. You can find help online or join local caregiver support groups. If there’s not one close by, why not start one? All you need is somewhere to meet and have coffee together. Place an ad in the local paper to see if there’s interest. Just talking to people once a week that understand is very beneficial.

  • Edward

    Edward

    August 20th, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    Speak to your doctor sooner rather than later if you’re feeling depressed and get the help you deserve. Caregivers are not made of steel. They get down and upset like everyone else. It’s not weak nor are you letting them down to not feel strong as an ox every day. You’re human! Your resilience will bounce back when you feel better and only you can do something about that by taking the first step. Make that appointment.

  • Jerry

    Jerry

    August 20th, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Caregivers can also find help on everything associated with caregiving as well as external resources at medicare.gov/caregivers/ .

  • Ava

    Ava

    August 20th, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    I look after my elderly mother and have done so for fourteen years. She has dementia. There are days when I resent how much of my life she takes up. Then I immediately feel guilty for even thinking that. What a great daughter I am, you must be thinking…but I’m so tired. I have my own family too with three teenagers and between them, my husband and my mother, I feel there’s no time to call my own.

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