Help for Depressed Caregivers
May is Mental Health Month
It's often difficult to remember an exact point at which your sadness and unhappiness tipped into depression. Depression affects many more caregivers than members of the general public. Caregiving is demanding and difficult even when you love the person you look after.
One of the major problems with depression is it changes the way we think. What had been difficult but something we could cope with, changes into an unmanageable problem. Depression affects reasoning. If you are depressed you tend to hone in on the negative and see despair as the only reality. It can be difficult to get out of the cycle of low mood, negative thoughts, feeling helpless and overwhelmed. But there is help that can and will be effective.
What is Depression?
The DSM-IV classifies depression into 5 main types. In general symptoms of depression include; low or irritable mood, changes in sleep pattern, poor concentration, changes in/poor appetite, loss of energy, feelings of guilt and worthlessness. If your mood feels low and stays low for a period of time it is probably sufficient to consider yourself depressed.
Get help with your depression
Doctors- Clinicians specialize in making a judgement on whether you are clinically depressed. They assess the depth of mood changes before offering treatments they think will help you. Your doctor will carry out tests to see if there is an underlying physical cause for your depression (an example of this is an underactive thyroid). He/she can then discuss a treatment plan. This will probably include medication, support therapies and looking at how local services can help you with helping you look after your relative who has Alzheimer's.
Drugs- There are many different types of drugs treatments for that your doctor can prescribe. Most antidepressant medications take a bit of time until you realize that you are beginning to feel better. Close relatives may be the first to notice your improvement. Regular contact with your doctor is important to monitor your progress. Here is more information on the type of drugs used in the treatment of depression.
Talk Therapies- There are a number of different approaches that can be used from analytic psychotherapies, through cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) to supportive talk therapies. Much will depend on what is available in your area and who your doctor may refer you to.
Support Groups-Alzheimer's Association have a countrywide network of offices who can give you information about support services in your area. They can give you information on finances, local services, education and events in your area. They often have support groups where you can meet other people in the same situation as yourself. Here is a link to your local Alzheimer's Association. You are not alone. Contact them today.
Getting Urgent Help for Depression with Suicidal Thoughts
If your thoughts turn to suicide you need urgent professional help. You've moved well beyond what might be described as a low mood or mild depression. Go see your doctor now. Your thoughts, no matter how rational they may seem to you, are manifestations of a disease process that can be changed with proper treatment.
Tips Low moods also help to fuel thoughts of avoidance or escape. It can seem such a good idea to look for an alternative. As a rule of thumb, put off any major decisions like moving your relative, giving up your job, changing a relationships until after your low moods have passed. Do not keep things to yourself. Discuss how you feel with a close friend, relative, your family doctor.
Sources: American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Revised 4th ed.). Washington, DC
Wasserman, D. (2006). Depression the facts. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press