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Caregiver Anxiety and Depression

If you are one of the over 43 million people in the U.S. providing unpaid care to a family member, chances are you have found yourself struggling at one point or another with feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. While providing physical, financial, and emotional support to a loved one is fulfilling, it can also be a heavy burden to bear.

Family caregiving duties may include everything from transporting your loved one to appointments and filling their prescriptions, to feeding, dressing, bathing, and providing skilled nursing care for them.

Common feelings associated with caregiving include:
  • Excessive worry over your loved one's condition
  • Guilt over the type of care you are providing or for putting your loved one in a facility
  • Anger or resentment of other family members or friends
  • Loneliness or social isolation from your social networks
  • Frustration over all that is asked of you
  • Stress about money, both wages lost because of caregiving as well as mounting medical bills
  • Anxiety about becoming sick yourself or missing out on career opportunities
  • Denial about the true health condition of your loved one and their growing needs
  • Sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness about your situation

For caregivers of aging parents with conditions like Alzheimer's and dementia, the task can be even more overwhelming. In fact, researchers have found that caregivers of loved ones with dementia are much more likely to develop signs of depression than non-dementia caregivers.

If you find yourself struggling with these types of emotions, consider these tips and ideas:

Talk to someone
Seeking professional help either via counseling or therapy is not a show of weakness; it's quite the opposite actually. Recognizing that you are emotionally drowning and need help is essential to both caring for yourself and being able to care for someone else. While caregiving may prevent you from being able to leave the house for weekly appointments, there are other avenues of seeking therapeutic intervention including speaking with a counselor over the phone or virtually connecting with a professional via live video chat on your computer.

Connect with other caregivers
The ticket to combatting depression and social isolation is sometimes as simple as realizing you're not alone in this battle, that other people are going through similar situations as you. Connecting with other caregivers through support groups or online networks can offer you a sturdy foundation with which to support yourself on your caregiving journey. Online facebook groups like The Caregiver Space Community, Caregiver Collective, and WorkingDaughter offer private, closed communities where caregivers can connect to share their experiences, ask questions, and simply find support.

Educate yourself
What can sometimes be the most frustrating or anxiety-ridden part of caregiving is all the unknowns that come with diseases and chronic illnesses your loved one may have. Not understanding why something is happening or how best to manage your loved one's care is compounded by the fact that the practitioners you rely on for answers don't always have them or are lacking a bedside manner that might otherwise comfort you. Combat this upending sense of mystery by taking control of the things you do know and can learn.

Master simple nursing skills like taking blood pressure, checking O2 levels, and monitoring temperatures. Read up on your loved one's disease, be it diabetes, MS, Parkinson's, dementia, you name it. Educate yourself and you will discover more resources and tools to assist you and provide independence in daily activities for your loved one.

Try journaling
Oftentimes the weight of a feeling feels heavier when you try and keep it bottled up inside. Allowing yourself the grace and freedom to say what you are feeling out loud and write it down in a journal can make a huge difference in how you process your emotions. Jotting down your daily experience and how you're feeling (both negative and positive emotions) will prove to be a healthy practice that boosts your own outlook and helps you not lose yourself amidst the chaos of caregiving.

Mindfulness activities like yoga and meditation may also aid your emotional wellbeing as will asking for help in the care process from family and friends, and seeking temporary respite services to avoid burnout.