Last year President Barack Obama declared that November be recognized as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. November is also National Family Caregivers Month. Check both the National Alzheimer’s Association and the National Families Caregiver’s Association for local Alzheimer’s awareness events and activities in your area. To do our part Health Central is asking writers from our various sites to join in on promoting awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and overlapping conditions. Depression is one of the possible co-morbid conditions of Alzheimer’s disease. It is also extremely common for caregivers of the individual with Alzheimer’s to suffer from depression. In this post we are going to focus on the mental health of friends and family members who take care of their loved one with Alzheimer’s.
As expert Jacqueline Marcell reports, depression can be prevalent in caregivers of loved ones with dementia. She cites a statistic that shows that caregivers of loved ones suffering from dementia are twice as likely to suffer from depression as those providing care for non-dementia patients. If you are such a caregiver there is help and support. We have invited Dr. Deborah Serani, author of Living with Depression: Why Biology and Biography Matter Along the Path to Hope and Healing and practicing psychotherapist, to answer questions about how caregiver’s can combat depression.
To find out more about Dr. Deborah Serani please visit her blog, Dr. Deb: Psychological Perspectives.
Q: Why are so many caregivers and especially those who care for a loved one having Alzheimer’s Disease more at risk for developing depression than the general population?
Dr. Serani: Over 65 million people in the United States are caregivers to someone 50 years of age or older. Caring for another person, in addition to your own self and household, presses heavily on the caregiver’s life. In fact, The National Family Caregiving Association found that 61% of caregivers providing at least 20 hours of caregiving per week suffer from depression. Moreover, caregivers who look after adults with Alzheimer’s are at a significantly greater risk for depression than those who are caregivers to those with other chronic illnesses. Studies remark that it’s not the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s that is difficult for caregivers to deal with, but rather the anger, aggressiveness, agitation and behavioral changes they experience on a daily basis. The trauma of seeing a loved one become a “different” person is hard for the caregiver to endure. As a result, many caregivers mourn the loss of their loved one long before they die. For these reasons, caregivers who tend to adults with Alzheimer’s are prone to depression.
Q: Are there early warning signs and symptoms of depression that caregivers need to know about?
Dr. Serani: Any disruption in your daily routine can be a tip off that depression may be creeping in. These include changes in sleeping, eating, or avoiding activities or people socially. Sadness and melancholy are easy to register as possible depressive threads, but also keep in mind that depression can shorten your tolerance for things. So being more irritable, short tempered or overly tired should set off alarms that you may be struggling with depression. Another way depression presents is by lodging itself in your body. Physical symptoms like headaches, backaches, stomach pains or malaise should be checked out medically as well as emotionally.