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Nip Depression in the Bud:
Warning Signs to Look For
By Mary Damiano
While caregivers are defined as the
people taking care of those needing help, they sometimes
overlook the fact that caregiving responsibilities can
take a toll on their own health.
In addition to physical ailments, caregivers are at risk
for depression. Depression can strike anyone, at any
age. Caregivers need to be especially aware of
depression because of the great load they carry. Many
caregivers work at a full-time job and take care of a
family in addition to their caregiving responsibilities.
They often sacrifice their own health, well-being and
social life in order to do everything that needs to be
One common denominator among caregivers is the desire
and the belief that they must do everything themselves.
Often, caregivers do not ask for help, opting instead to
inadvertently play the part of the martyr. This leads
the caregiver to become overwhelmed and an overwhelmed
person is fertile ground for depression to dig in and
The great strain caregivers face on a daily basis can
lead to depression. One way to stop depression before it
strikes is to be aware of the warning signs. According
to the Administration on Aging, here are some red flags
that depression might be creeping in:
Sad, discouraged mood
Persistent pessimism about the present, future and the
Loss of interest in work, hobbies, social life and sex
Difficulty in making decisions
Lack of energy and feeling slowed down
Restlessness and irritability
Loss of appetite and loss of weight
Disturbed sleep, especially early morning waking
Depressive, gloomy or desolate dreams
If you feel yourself exhibiting these behaviors, do not
discount them. They should be taken as seriously as you
might treat a fever that won't go away or a persistent
Below are some expert tips on what caregivers in
particular can do to stop depression before it gets out
Talk regularly with family, friends, or mental health
professionals— it is very important that you do not
isolate yourself. Join a local support group, or find
one online. Share your feelings so they don't build up
and escalate into problems.
Set limits— this can be hard for caregivers, because
they are used to taking on everything that needs to be
done. It's okay to say no to taking on more than you can
Eat nutritiously, exercise regularly and get enough
sleep— this can be difficult because of the irregular
schedules caregivers must keep. But think of it this
way: your body and mind are machines, and they must be
properly maintained in order to function at their best.
Nutritious food, exercise and sleep are the things that
fuel these machines. Just as you would not let your car
run out of gas, don't let your body run out of its fuel.
Let go of unrealistic expectations— caregivers often
have unrealistic expectations of themselves, and
therefore push themselves to meet these goals. Accept
the fact that you can't do everything. Ask for and
accept help, from friends, family and local agencies.
Whatever you do, don't be a martyr.
Keep a sense of humor— we all know that laughter is the
best medicine, so go ahead and take a few spoonfuls
daily. Relax with a funny movie or TV show. Put on a
comedy tape to listen to while you do your chores. Find
the humor in everyday things.