Preventing Crisis: Caregiver Depression

Caregivers are the frontline workers of the senior living industry, and their health is critical for healthy and thriving assisted living homes. Caregiver depression is a silent crisis, and if unchecked, can cause significant issues. Is your team equipped to thrive?

With all the pandemic and routine challenges facing society, caregiver depression is causing a silent health crisis.

It doesn’t always manifest as sadness. Oftentimes one exhibits anger, anxiety, frustration, even communication deficits. However, it more than likely has one root cause, depression.

Today, depression has morphed into a national crisis.

Nearly 20-percent of family caregivers suffer from depression. It has also been reported that over 55-percent of caregivers exhibit profound signs of depression.

What is the cause of such alarming statistics? Many at-home caregivers report having no escape. The place of burden is the same place as relaxation – the home.

However, the relaxation hardly comes – this is why residential assisted living is so important.

WHY RESIDENTIAL ASSISTED LIVING WORKS BEST FOR CAREGIVERS

When living with the person one cares for, the burden of care is never a traditional 9-5 job. It is more like a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week marathon.

Caregivers who care for people with dementia-related issues seem to experience the greatest amount of depression. Why?

The typical caregiver is a spouse. This person has spent significant time, even multiple decades living and existing with someone only to be forgotten.

They witness the progress and insidious decline in cognitive abilities of the one they love most. Watching a brilliant professor morph into a 12-year-old mentality is excruciatingly painful.

The typical caregiver is also a woman. She most often is caring for her husband. She watches his strength and vision diminish. She witnesses his vigor turn into weakness.

Depression grips these individuals, and if not addressed, it becomes a major health issue for them.

Furthermore, depression seems to grip caregivers for more reasons than caregiving itself. The insidious nature of the responsibilities involved, and the sacrificial toll weighs heavy on the caregivers’ body, especially when one person is doing it alone.

At-home caregivers often neglect nutrition, exercise, and social interaction apart from the one whom they are caring for, results in a degeneration in their own health.

On the other hand, caregivers in residential assisted living are able to offer superior care as they share the load and understand the importance of working to provide quality care throughout the industry – this helps eliminate depression.

IDENTIFYING DEPRESSION

If sadness is the symptom you are searching for, you may miss it. Depression manifests in a variety of ways and sadness is probably least among them.

Also, the degree and severity of symptoms varies, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recognizing symptoms of depression.

People suffering from depression may exhibit:

  • Eating irregularities
  • Changes in sleep partners
    • Sleeping too much
    • Oversleeping regularly
    • Inability to sleep
  • Fatigue
  • General disinterest
  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Apathy
  • Suicidal
    • Attempt suicide
    • Jeer about “not being around”
  • Physical symptoms such as
    • Headaches
    • Digestive disorders
    • Idiopathic pain

WHAT TO DO WHEN EXPERIENCING DEPRESSION

There is good news relative to the treatment for depression. First, medical intervention is readily available and effective.
Get help.

Many medications are safe, have limited side effects, and can show an improvement in symptoms within 3 to 7 days.

Furthermore, there are things that can be done aside from pharmacological intervention that are very effective.

  • Get help with caregiving.
  • Set goals that are attainable.
  • Chunk daily tasks instead of ceaselessly working until they are finished.
  • Re-Engage with friends and family outside of the home.
  • Ensure regular attendance at religious gatherings.
  • Consider respite care for your loved one and accept when it’s too much and search for quality residential assisted living homes.

Caring for a loved one does not always mean you know how to care for yourself. Recognizing the limits to your abilities as a caregiver means you are really ensuring the quality health of the one for whom you are caring.

Getting help does not mean you have failed – getting help means you refuse to fail.

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the seasons. Yes, multiple days of cloudy weather can have an effect on one’s brain.

The lack of sun, for instance, results in a drastic reduction in Vitamin D, and depression often manifests as a result. SAD most often occurs in the fall and winter. However, it can also occur in climates that experience chronic rain and snow.

In this respect, it’s not seasonal but weather related. Regardless of the stimulus, SAD is serious.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder symptoms typically dissolve when the seasons change. However, the time in between can be quite damaging. While symptoms are typically mild in the beginning, they do increase in severity as the season lingers.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Typical depression
  • Lack of interest
  • Depleted energy
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or increase in appetite
  • Agitation
  • Loss of focus
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide and/or death

SAD is most commonly associated with the fall and winter seasons, but this is misleading. It can also happen during the spring and summer months as well.

Symptoms of SAD may be caused by:

  • Compromised circadian rhythm brought on by the reduction in sunlight during the fall and winter months.
  • A drop in serotonin levels is also brought on by a reduction in sunlight during the fall and winter months.
  • Melatonin levels can be compromised by changes in seasons, especially if those changes come rapidly. This will doubtless disturb one’s ability to sleep reasonably well or at all.

Associated Symptoms of Fall and Winter SAD Include:

  • Sleeping too much
  • Uncontrollable Carbohydrate cravings that are uncontrollable
  • Rapid and dangerous weight gain
  • General fatigue

Associated Symptoms of Spring and summer SAD

  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Anxiety or general agitation

It should also be noted that other psychological issues may be affected by SAD, and Bi-polar is a major difficulty for people suffering from SAD. Bi-polar patients often experience increased instances of depression in the winter, while increased instances of mania in the summer.

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

While feelings of sadness are common, medical help should be sought when one develops chronic symptomatology. When one experiences multiple days or even weeks of agitation, insomnia, fatigue, unexplainable cravings or complete loss of appetite it is important to see a doctor.

Do not wait until one is suicidal. Get help sooner.

Risk Factors

Some people are more prone to SAD than others. It is more frequent in adults or seniors, but certain risk factors have shown its emergence more readily than others.

These factors include:

  • A family history of blood relatives suffering from SAD increases one’s likelihood.
  • A depression or bipolar diagnosis makes one more susceptible to SAD.
  • Residing in far northern or southern areas on the globe certainly makes one more vulnerable to SAD as daylight hours are significantly reduced in those areas.

Complications

Complications associated with SAD are much like those of traditional depression. People suffering may:

  • Socially withdraw from family
  • Develop metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hyper cholesterol, high blood pressure
  • Develop alcoholism
  • Abuse drugs
  • Become violent

Recognition and treatment from a doctor are essential. One need not be ashamed, as the diagnosis is common. What is most important is maintaining a quality of life where you can positively engage with others.

RESIDENTIAL ASSISTED LIVING CAN PREVENT CRISIS

Depression, regardless of the type of cause, is nothing to take lightly. It must be recognized and addressed immediately. A delay in doing so may have irreparable ramifications.

If you or a loved one is exhibiting any signs or symptoms, especially in the wake of known risk factors, please consult medical attention today.

For information about quality care and senior assisted living, visit www.RALNA.org.

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