SUPPORT FOR OLDER ADULTS WITH MEMORY LOSS AND THEIR FAMILIES

Special Caregiver Concerns

Caring for a person with dementia can be all consuming.

Researchers have found that a person who provides care for someone with dementia is twice as likely to suffer from depression as a person providing care for someone without dementia. Not only do caregivers spend significantly more hours per week providing care, they report more employment problems, personal stress, mental and physical health problems, lack of sleep, less time to do the things they enjoy, less time to spend with other family members, and more family conflict than non-dementia caregivers.

As stressful as the deterioration of a loved one’s mental and physical abilities may be for the caregiver, dealing with dementia-related behavior is an even bigger contributor to developing depression. Dementia-related symptoms such as wandering, agitation, hoarding, embarrassing conduct. and resistance or non-cooperation from the loved one makes every day challenging and makes it harder for a caregiver to get rest or assistance in providing care. The more severe the case of dementia, the more likely the caregiver is to experience depression. It is critical for caregivers, especially in these situations, to receive consistent and dependable support and respite.

Women experience depression at a higher rate than men.

Women, primarily wives and daughters, provide the majority of caregiving. In the United States, approximately 12 million women experience clinical depression each year, at approximately twice the rate of men. If you think depression is all in your head, think again. Physical factors like menopause, childbirth, PMS, thyroid disease, and nutritional deficiencies in iron, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids can all cause depression.

A Mental Health America study found that many women do not seek treatment for depression because they are embarrassed or in denial about being depressed. In fact, 41% of women surveyed cited embarrassment or shame as barriers to treatment. Keep in mind that doctors have heard it all. It is important to both your mental and physical health to get a complete physical exam. Take time during the exam to bring up the subject of depression if you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of depression.

Men who are caregivers deal with depression differently.

Men are less likely to admit to depression and doctors are less likely to diagnose depression in men. Men will more often “self-treat” their depressive symptoms of anger, irritability, or feelings of powerlessness with alcohol or overwork. Although male caregivers tend to be more willing than female caregivers to hire outside help for assistance with home care duties, they tend to have fewer friends to confide in or positive activities to engage in outside the home. The mistaken assumption that depressive symptoms are a sign of weakness can make it especially difficult for men to seek help.

  • As appears on the website of Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving

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