health and wellbeing of the caregiver

10 Self Help Tips for Depressed Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Christine Kennard Health Pro May 14, 2012
  • May is Mental Health Month

     

    Depression symptoms, among caregivers of people with dementia, are reported to range from 28-55% although some studies put it as high as 60%. Depressed caregivers are more likely to have coexisting anxiety disorders, substance abuse or dependence issues, and other forms of chronic disease.

     

    Depression often makes you feel as though nothing you can do will make you feel better. That is because depression changes the way you think about yourself and the world around you. In this Sharepost I have put together 10 self-help tips on how you can try to change how you feel and help you regain some of your previous happiness and energy.

     

    1. Move away from negative thinking

    The thought processes of someone who is depressed are almost entirely negative. Not only about yourself, but about the world you live in. Black-and-white thinking is a characteristic, as is a sense of pointlessness, guilt and self-blame. In order to move away from negative thinking you first you have to recognise it in yourself. This sharepost will give you hints on how to change negative thinking to positive to improve your depression.

    2. Self doubt and self blame won’t help you

    Depression is a very common disease that affects millions of people at some time in their lives. Recognize you're feeling bad and find the treatment that works for you. Talk to your family and friends about it. Ask for their help when you need it. Caregiving becomes easier if you can share the responsibility at times.

    3. See a doctor

    If you have not seen a doctor about your low mood, go now. They can assess you, make sure there is no physical cause for your depression and talk to you about treatments that will help you. There are many different types of drugs available that can help lift your mood and help you get better quicker.

    4. Get out, don’t isolate yourself

    It is very important to get out.  Put yourself in a social atmosphere either with a friend or relative, by yourself or with the person you care for. Go to a place where there are other people, a museum, a park, or a mall. Have an activity you can enjoy with others. As a caregiver it is important to have some time set aside for yourself. Try to put any feelings of self doubt or self consciousness away. Going out, doing things all help to chip away at your depression.

    5. Do things you used to enjoy

    Even if you feel you can’t, or don’t enjoy things the way you used to any more, it is still important to do them.  

     

    6. See a good movie, read a funny book

    It is important to try and lift your mood. You can do this by seeing a funny movie, reading a funny book, watch sitcoms you enjoy. Distraction is good, remembering what it feels like to laugh again is all part of gradually feeling better. 

    7. Exercise

    Lots of research shows that one of the most important things to lift mood and lessen anxiety, is exercise. When you're depressed your energy levels can drop dramatically. But it's a physiological fact that activity fights depression. Aim to increase your heart rate with exercise for up to 20 minutes a day. Do this type of activity five times a week. Exercising increases the neuro-plasticity of your brain and releases neurochemicals called endorphins, which will help to elevate your mood.


  • 8. Eat a Healthy Diet

    Feeling down or depressed can affect both your appetite and your daily routine. Some people lose weight because of lack of appetite, others comfort eat to feel better. Antidepressants can also affect your appetite. Weight loss and weight gain can both make you feel more lethargic and contribute to avoiding activity.

    Research is ongoing into whether some foods help relieve symptoms of depression. For instance a diet based on highly processed foods have been show to be a risk factor for depression. Eat a healthy balanced diet. It is important for maintaining good general health.

    9. See a therapist

    There are lots of therapists around, in your area, who can help you and support you on the road to recovery. Your doctor can refer you or you can contact the American Psychological Society psychologist locator.

    10. Support groups

    Depression makes us feel as though we are the only people who feel the way we do. It is not the case and there are lots of support groups around where you can share your feelings and give support to others. The Alzheimer’s Association in your area can give you information on a local caregiver group or your mental health services can put you in touch with a group of people who are also at different levels of recovery from depression. You are not alone in feeling the way you do and a support group can help you.

     

    Sources:

    Wasserman, D. (2006). Depression the facts. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press

    Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2008 Apr-Jun;22(2):170-6.

    Dementia patient suffering and caregiver depression. Schulz R. Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.

     

    Spector, J. & Tampi, R. (2005). Caregiver depression. Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging, 13(4): 34-40.

     

    Akbaraly, T.N., Brunner. E.J., Ferrie .J.E., Marmot .M.G., Kivimaki. M., Singh-Manoux. A. (2009) Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age The British Journal of Psychiatry 195: 408-413.

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