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As A Caregiver You May Be At Risk For Depression

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One of today's biggest health-care crises is the depression faced by those who minister to aging relatives and friends, say doctors, psychologists, and social workers. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 60 percent of caregivers experience depression; the figure is even higher among those who cared for loved one with dementia. In general, women caregivers suffer more than men.

Compounded by the stresses of caring for a frail loved one over the long term, 20 percent report severe depression that may require medical intervention. The biological reasons for this kind of depression can be left to research, but one psychological reason is certainly clear:

Caregivers not only anguish over what has happened to their loved one, but they are also upset by what is required of them. Wanting to be good caregivers, but without adequate support and resources, and without enough time and energy to fulfill competing demands, they may succumb to a darkness that is out of their control.

Alzheimer's caregivers are known as the hidden or second victim of the disease. They commonly suffer from fatigue, stomach problems, headaches, difficulty sleeping, anger, sadness, and especially depression. The cause is clear. Because more than 70 percent of suffers live at home, they are cared for by relatives and friends day and night for as many as 20 years. An average Alzheimer's caregiver spends on average, 69 hours a week caring for a relative stricken with the disease- and has done so for at least four years. Fifty percent of Alzheimer's caregivers live with their loved one.

The grief, loss and irreversible changes in lifestyle can be devastating to an Alzheimer's caregiver. It is hard to feel comfort in doing a good job as a caregiver when the loved one's condition only declines. It is hard to feel good about yourself when everything around you is unpredictable and unreal.

Caregivers have more power over what is happening than they realize- but first, they need to be aware of their condition.

Remember, although major depression is a serious illness, it is treatable in 80 percent to 90 percent of cases. ( It is also known as major depressive illness, clinical depression, major affective disorder or unipolar disorder.)

No one has to suffer needlessly. The following are seven warning signs of major depression, from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

  1. Changes in sleep, either increase or decrease or difficulty falling asleep or staying awake.
  2. Changes in appetite, with either a marked gain or loss of weight.
  3. Impaired concentration and decision-making (major and minor).
  4. Loss of energy and profound fatigue
  5. Loss of interest in usual activities such as food and sex.
  6. Low self-esteem, dwelling on loss or failure.
  7. Feelings of hopelessness and a belief that nothing will get better.

More information is available from the following organizations:

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 800-950-NAMI; www.nami.org
National Mental Health Organization, 800-969-NMHA; www.nmha.org
American Psychiatric Association, 800-267-5400; www.psych.org

Give the Gift of Love

Are you a caregiver? Do you know a caregiver? Caregiving by Beth McLeod is a gift that will last the whole year long and will also support our work here on at Empowering Caregivers.The book is: Caregiving : The Spiritual Journey of Love, Loss, and Renewal by Beth Witrogen McLeod


Reprinted with permission by the author.: All rights reserved

Beth Witrogen Mcleod

Beth Witrogen McLeod is an author, journalist, speaker and consultant on caregiving, end-of-life issues and renewal at midlife, especially for women. She is a double Pulitzer Prize nominee, and has won many national and regional awards for her work. She has written for Good Housekeeping, SELF, Family Circle, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. Her latest book is Caregiving: The Spiritual Journey of Love, Loss, and Renewal www.Witrogen.Com

Her expertise grew out of personal experience caring for her parents who were simultaneously terminally ill 1,200 miles away. With a father dying of a rare form of cancer and a mother with Lou Gehrig's disease and dementia, McLeod learned firsthand about the traumas and blessings of this mid-life rite of passage. She turned her experiences into a passion for public service, first writing and producing an award-winning newspaper series, "The Caregivers," for The San Francisco Examiner in 1995. It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She developed a weekly column for The Examiner that often appeared on the New York Times Syndicate Web site. Honors for the series included National Hospice Organization, Pew Charitable Trusts, American Legion Auxiliary, Society of Professional Journalists, and many regional and local social service organizations.

.More About Beth - http://www.care-givers.com/pages/experts/aboutbeth.html

Web Site: http://www.witrogen.com

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