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Caregiver Depression Prevention

Family caregivers often place the needs of their loved ones above their own, leading to significant emotional and physical strain. The responsibilities of caregiving can induce feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, isolation, and exhaustion, followed by guilt for experiencing these emotions. A study by the American Psychological Association highlights that caregivers exhibit higher levels of stress and depression and lower levels of well-being, physical health, and self-efficacy compared to non-caregivers. This disparity is particularly pronounced among those caring for dementia patients.

It is crucial to recognize that depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are not inevitable consequences of caregiving. There are strategies to protect mental health and prevent caregiver depression. Here are ten ways to help stave off depression as a caregiver:

Practical Strategies for Preventing Caregiver Depression

Challenge Negative Thoughts

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) suggests that our distorted thoughts, not external factors like people, situations, and events, cause unhealthy feelings and behaviors. CBT posits that we can change how we think, feel, and act, even if our situation remains unchanged. With practice, more realistic, positive thinking can replace the negativity contributing to depression and anxiety. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “I’m worthless,” CBT helps you examine this statement, determine its accuracy, and formulate a more realistic assessment, such as, “I’m not worthless; I provide quality care for my loved ones and am a good person.”

Find Respite

No one can successfully commit to a task 24/7. Regular breaks from caregiving are essential. Seek help from family, friends, an adult day care program, an in-home care company, or a senior living facility to give yourself time to recharge. Use this time to prioritize yourself and engage in activities you enjoy, such as watching a movie, gardening, exercising, or attending social events. Even low-key activities like reading a book, taking a long bath, or getting a solid night’s sleep can benefit your mental and physical health.

Establish a Support System

Caregivers often feel isolated from friends and family due to limited free time and energy for socializing. Prioritizing time with those who care about you is important. Confiding in a trusted friend or family member can be an important outlet for your feelings. If friends and family are not supportive or cannot relate to your experiences, look for counseling groups or support meetings. Groups geared towards family caregivers can help you feel less isolated and allow you to converse with people who understand your situation.

Look into Self-Help Resources

Numerous books offer techniques for dealing with the sadness, hopelessness, resentment, anxiety, and loneliness that caregivers often experience. Visit the self-help section of your local library or bookstore or search online for titles related to depression. Highly recommended books include "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by Dr. David D. Burns and "Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes" by Therese J. Borchard.

Put Your Feelings Down on Paper

Journaling about your daily emotions can be a great release. Not only can you vent freely in a safe space, but you can also look for patterns in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Identifying triggers and changing your approach to certain situations can help improve your mental health. Celebrate your progress and improvements in your mood in your diary as well.

Make Tasks More Manageable

Depression often makes even simple daily tasks feel overwhelming. To combat this, set realistic goals for yourself and break larger tasks into smaller steps. Prioritize the most urgent responsibilities and consider any accomplishments, even small ones, a success. Seek help with some of your duties if necessary, allowing you to focus on your mental health while ensuring your loved one is cared for.

Stay Busy

Everyone experiences depression differently, and some people fare better with a personal project to focus on. Disconnect from caregiving and get involved in a new endeavor, like compiling a family photo album, knitting, volunteering, getting in shape, or taking an online course. A productive task can help keep your mind and energy occupied, reducing the time spent dwelling on negative emotions.

Get Professional Help

Clinical depression is a serious mental health concern that requires professional diagnosis and treatment. Seek expert advice on handling a mood disorder. A treatment plan might include antidepressant medications, counseling, or both. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a guide to finding a mental health professional, providing valuable information and tips for starting your search.

Consider Supplements

Nutritional deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and certain minerals may contribute to symptoms of depression. A balanced diet of whole foods is best, but supplements might be necessary. Research suggests that supplements like St. John’s wort, 5-HTP, SAM-e, and gingko biloba may help alleviate depression symptoms. Always consult your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen to avoid interactions with other medications.

Be Patient and Gentle with Yourself

Depression is a serious condition, and recovery takes time. Feeling better is a gradual process. Be kind to yourself during difficult times and remember that you are not alone. Mental health and elder care resources are available to help you.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distress, call 911 or the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis services are also available in Spanish (1-888-628-9454), for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing (TTY at 1-800-799-4889), and online via chat.

For more information about caregiving support, please visit AmoryCare or contact us at:

Phone: 908-854-3220

Fax: 908-854-3221

Service Areas:

Union County, NJ: Berkeley Heights, Summit, Linden, Scotch Plains, Westfield, Murray Hill, Plainfield, Mountainside, Garwood, Clark, New Providence, Elizabeth, Roselle Park, Winfield, Kenilworth, Vauxhall, Cranford, Springfield, Union, and Fanwood, NJ.

Morris County, NJ: Bernardsville, Boonton, Brookside, Budd Lake, Butler, Califon, Cedar Knolls, Chatham, Chester, Denville, Dover, East Hanover, Far Hills, Flanders, Florham Park, Gillette, Greenvillage, Hibernia, Ironia, Kenvil, Lake Hopatcong, Landing, Ledgewood, Lincoln Park, Long Valley, Madison, Mendham, Millington, Montville, Morris Plains, Morristown, Mt. Arlington, Mt. Freedom, Mt. Tabor, Mountain Lakes, Netcong, New Vernon, Newfoundland, Oak Ridge, Parsippany, Pequannock, Picatinny Arsenal, Pine Brook, Pompton Plains, Port Murray, Randolph, Riverdale, Rockaway, Schooley’s Mountain, Stirling, Succasunna, Towaco, Wharton, Whippany.

Essex County, NJ: Livingston, Roseland, Essex Fells, West Orange, South Orange, Short Hills, Millburn, Maplewood, Montclair, Verona, Cedar Grove, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Nutley, West Caldwell, Fairfield, Irvington, Newark, East Orange.

Sources: Differences between caregivers and noncaregivers in psychological health and physical health: A meta-analysis. (; What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? (; Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective? (



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