More than 65 million people, 29 percent of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. Thirty six percent of family caregivers care for a parent and 7 out of 10 caregivers are caring for loved ones over 50 years old.1
Providing care for a loved one is a noble, caring and sometimes necessary thing to do. It can bring great joy to give your time to someone who is rehabilitating after an accident, disabled, or suffering from a terminal illness or disease. Caregiving can also become a vicious cycle that may one day cause you to become the person receiving care from a loved one.
Once an overlooked category, caregiver depression has now been deemed a crisis by the National Alliance for Caregiving. The health of the caregiver has garnered widespread attention over the past decade due to the discovery that a family caregiver is more like likely to develop major depression than the rest of the population.
Many caregivers hold full-time jobs yet spend at least 20 hours a week caring for a loved one. Caregivers pay a financial due to missing work or out-of-pocket expenses relating to the care they give. Hence, caregivers find they have neither the time nor the money to seek adequate care for themselves. Many report not practicing healthy eating habits or exercising on a regular basis. Caregivers become isolated because they have no time or energy left over after caring for someone else. These factors can cause psychological distress, affecting the ability to provide proper care for another. When caregivers become depressed, they find it hard to perform duties such as cooking, cleaning and remembering to give medication on a timely basis.
Caregivers themselves are sometimes unaware they are clinically depressed. Feelings of sadness and stress are viewed as being natural in the course of watching someone you love suffer or deteriorate. Balancing caregiving with their own lives – raising families, working and maintaining their own households and expenses – compounds anxiety. More often than not, caregivers place their needs last, increasing the chances of negatively affecting their health.
In the past, the greatest barrier caregivers faced in getting help was that their depression was often not diagnosed and equally undertreated. However, greater awareness over the years has caused doctors and health institutions to research causes, treatments, and most importantly – prevention – of depression in caregivers. Of special note in the area of prevention is the recommendation to seek respite care…having family or community members give caregivers breaks from caregiving responsibilities. In-home care companies, such as Comfort Keepers®, provide respite services tailored to meet the needs of both the caregiver and the special person needing care. Comfort Keepers can be hired to do things such as laundry and light housekeeping, or as daily companions for those in need of constant care.
It is essential for caregivers to become well-educated and proactive in recognizing and fighting depression. Caregivers should follow nutritious diets, exercise regularly and make time for socializing. Learning to share feelings with family, friends and doctors is a big step towards maintaining a healthy balance in caregivers' lives. Asking for and accepting help from others is crucial. Because, in order to give the gift of time, the most important thing caregivers can do is to take care of themselves first.
1 Caregiving in the United States; National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009
National Family Caregivers Association; September 2010
Gray, Leslie. Caregiver Depression: A Growing Mental Health Concern. San Fransisco, National Center on Caregiving / Family Caregiver Alliance, 2003.
NFCA. Retrieved September 12, 2010 from http://www.thefamilycaregiver.org/who_are_family_caregivers/care_giving_statstics.cfm
Tampi, Rajesh. Studies Point Out Risk of Depression High Among Caregivers. Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, 2003.
this article taken from the Comforting Moments section of Comfort Keepers website. To read more like it click HERE.