Every other Wednesday there is a Twitter chat around caregiving. Each time a different topic is discussed and those in the caregiving community — both family caregivers and caregiving professionals — weigh in. Here are highlights from the July 13 chat that focused on Depression & Caregiving:
Question 1: What do you think leads to depression during caregiving?
@SeniorCounselor: Feeling isolated, lost of control over your situation, built up resentment that you feel you can’t expressed
@Seniors4Living: A feeling of helplessness, vulnerability, and discouragement about the caregiving situation.
@alzfdn: Grief must be a big cause of depression. <— Absolutely. This is a big one.
@JordanEM: Response to stress, added responsibility, decreased self care, grief, change in lifestyle
@rightathomeUS: 1) observing the declining conditions of loved ones 2) fatigue 3) worry 4) despair
@CareGiverGuy: Felt depression moments mostly at night when isolation kicked in & the Ground Hog repetition continued…
@SeniorCounselor: Trying to meet so many demands that we place on ourselves & others place on us makes us feel “not good enough”
@SandwichINK : Having to STOP driving :)
@KatyMcKenna: Knowing up front that your caregiving is probably not going to end with recovery.
@KathyKastner: Causes of caregiver depression: Exhaustion, isolation, guilt, pressure, un-met personal needs
@alzfdn: Isolation and lack of socialization must be major causes of depression as well.
Question 1a: Do you think it’s possible to NOT experience depression during caregiving?
@SandwichINK: Can go both ways – the senior parents get depressed coz they have to stop/ caregivers depressed coz of extra errands
@GracefulAging: I think you must begin with a look at physical/medication reasons. Begin with a good Dr. exam for an objective cause.
@rightathomeUS: Hard to experience depression with everything going on, especially if a family rather than professional caregiver.
@CaringTransCorp: Feeling hopeless to change situation of person you R taking care of & fear of when/if will worsen
@KatyMcKenna: It’s possible not to become depressed, but I think the longer the caregiving goes on, the more likely the depression.
@SeniorCounselor: Most caregivers know they are on a different journey than the care recipient; end-of-life care is a challenging time
@CaringTransCorp: Need to communicate with others & other caregivers, take time to themselves without feeling guilty about needing a break
Question 2: What are the symptoms of depression? How do we know if we are suffering from depression?
@CaringTransCorp: Mood swings, sleep all day, eating disorder, isolation, hard to concentrate.
@SeniorCounselor: Symptoms include: Loss of interest in activities, fatigue, change in sleep patterns, eating habits, isolation
@KathyKastner: I think hard if depressed, to self-identify. Also still stigma about being depressed imho
@Seniors4Living: I think that is so common among caregivers. Good point as to how the denial relates to protecting emotions.
@alzfdn: Other symptoms of depression: depressed mood, downcast appearance, frequent crying
@KatyMcKenna: For me, symptoms were crying, withdrawing from friends, loss of other interests, loss of hope for better future.
@RachelleNorman: Symptoms of depression: loss of appetite/energy, increased pain/stomach upset/headaches, feelings of hopelessness
@SandwichINK: More depression symptoms – easily frustrated and angry,
@JordanEM: Think many of the symptoms are masked by the demands of caregiving – similar results.
@SilveradoSenior: Depression symptoms… self isolation, lack of motivation, self neglect despite caring for the health of a loved one.
Question 3: What’s your personal story about depression?
@SandwichINK: My tuffest-senior dad dealing w/dementia symptoms/sundowning due to meds. Spent many nites awake-praying LOTS
@Seniors4Living: When I was grieving the death of my grandfather, I fell into depression. Lost my motivation to work/do anything new.
@KathyKastner: My story of depression (http://tinyurl.com/29drcc9)
@MKing09: I’m a lifetime caregiver: 2 bros w/CP, 3 children profoundly mentally impaired. I have chronic depression now.
Question 4: Why is treating depression in family caregivers so important?
@SeniorCounselor: Depression can also lead to physical ailments and complaints–the body is sometimes be impacted by what is going on mentally
@KathyKastner: Far reaching repercussions if not treated
@SandwichINK: Untreated depression in caregivers impacts person they’re caring for-comes back on caregiver. No one wins.
@SeniorCounselor: Depression impacts not just the person who is suffering but entire family systems
@MJHS01: You never know who may be experiencing a similar situation. Talk to people. Nothing like HUMAN resources. <-LOVE!
@SeniorCounselor: The elder is often impacted by the mood of the caregiver. If caregiver is depressed, it can lead to negative impacts
@alzfdn: The old oxygen mask scenario. You need to take care of yourself to provide care.
@SilveradoSenior: It is very important to treat depression because it will eventually affect the caregiver’s health. & lead to abuse.
@ShelleyWebbRN: Treating depression in family caregivers is important for both health of caregiver & care recipient. 40% die before caree.
Question 5: What are the treatments for depression? What worked for you?
@CaringTransCorp: Reaching out to the people I was really close with – baby steps at first then it became easier to just talk with people
@alzfdn: Counseling and continued support are some of the best interventions.
@SilveradoSenior: It is sometimes difficult for the caregiver to feel like they are doing enough, sometimes just telling them will help.
@rightathomeUS: Informal treatment is a change of scenery. Getting away from caregiving and the stress it can bring.
@KatyMcKenna: Mom said to me, about 9 years in to caregiving, “You’d better get it together, or you won’t make it much longer!”
@SilveradoSenior: Sometime just a hug can go a long way, or flowers & a card.
@HarryKaufer: I know it sounds simple, but take a walk every day. Studies even show it helps depression.
@KathyKastner: Tried counseling, exercise, St John’s Wort, a break) what worked: low dose anti depressants. Have to justify alll the time
@SeniorInfo4u: I use Cymbalta at night for anxiety and Wellbutrin in the morning.
@MJHS01: Also a great idea to ask your physician for info regarding support groups etc.
@CareCommunities: Healthy diet … fresh fruits & vegetables!!
Question 6: What about medications to treat depression? What’s been your experience?
@MKing09: I take Amitriptylin at night and Lexapro daily. I sent my daughter to her sister, but still have a disabled son at home.
@ShelleyWebbRN: I just think it’s better to stay away from depression medications until you’ve exhausted other options.
@CareCommunities: I agree, medications should be seen as the last solution
@SeniorCounselor: Medications can work. Talk with a doctor but most effective treatment is when counseling is involved too!
@ShelleyWebbRN: I’m saying that as a caregiver, not as a nurse. Certainly meds are required for severe cases with doc recommendation.
@KatyMcKenna: I was prescribed meds once many years ago, and found them of no help to me, so I discontinued.
@SeniorInfo4u: I love meds. Fought against them for years. Since taking them, my life has been much better.
@MJHS01: If you don’t have a listening ear, pick up a pen and paper and write. Get your feelings out by any means necessary.
Question 7: What can we do to help family caregivers suffering from depression?
@ShelleyWebbRN: I think the availability of phone or internet coaching/counseling is a wonderful way to help family caregivers.
@caregiving: We can validate the feelings of guilt, anger, resentment, that it’s natural to feel this way. We can show understanding.
@CaringTransCorp: Offering support to those who are in need, offering our time for help w/patient or just to grab a bite to eat and talk
@caregiving: I also think we can encourage family caregivers to share what’s on their heart–that we will listen w/o judgment.
@RachelleNorman: As a friend, offer caregivers time for respite. Communicate your concern for their health.
@rightathomeUS: Careful to not let siblings residing in same town of loved ones to bear lion’s share of caregiving. Be supportive!
@GracefulAging: Don’t steal the ownership of their feelings by saying things like “I know how you feel.”
@KatyMcKenna: Perhaps the kindest question you can ask caregiver is, “But how are YOU doing?” They’ll be shocked you asked.
@SeniorCounselor: Making sure the caregiver has time to themselves, get out of the house, associate w/ppl other than care recipient
@SilveradoSenior: Give the caregiver a Spa Day or a little vacation with a card that says you do so much. I just wanted to give something too
@SeniorInfo4u: More churches should start no cost adult day care centers, so caregivers can get some respite.
@SeniorCounselor: Offering to babysit, run errands–anything to get something off the caregiver’s “plate” can support them
@CareGiverGuy: We need to continue & increase the funding of Adult Care Centers, support GiftCare programs for caregivers
@TMMCare: If caregivers won’t take a day off, go through part of their day with them.
Question 8: What suggestions can you offer a family caregiver who may be depressed?
@ShelleyWebbRN: Family caregivers need to take breaks!
@caregiving: I think they just make a decision based on what’s in front of them, rather than what’s waaaay in front.
@rightathomeUS: Never feel reluctant to ask for help from community and family resources available. Avoid over exertion of caregiver duties.
GracefulAging: Weed their garden; take out their trash; bring them a new magazine. Perform an unexpected kind act.
@CaringTransCorp: Give them the gift of some time off and challenge them to do something they want to do for themselves whatever it may be!
@Seniors4Living: Do something that makes you happy, even for just 10 minutes a day. For me, going through the car wash makes me smile.
@SeniorCounselor: Share your concerns with them and have a conversation coming from a caring and non-judgmental place
@KathyKastner: Creative activities to do together (art, music, storytelling)
Editor’s note: The next #ElderCareChat will be on July 27 @ 1 pm ET. And be sure to visit out Caregivers Resource Center to find information for all stages of caring for your loved one.