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On a Serious Note…Caregiving and Depression

Posted Aug 27 2010 7:30am

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

How many of you were wondering if I was ever going to venture into the land of the “dark night of the soul” as coined by St. John of the Cross.  You know those points in your life when you’re so down, feeling little hope, and don’t know where to turn?  Well I hope you’re not at that point, but I know that many caregivers are dealing with depression and that we have to address.

On a personal note my family is seeing the damage unchecked depression can have on a caregiver.  My mother-in-law took care of my father-in-law following his stroke for 20 years.  We, the family, tried to help her in many ways, but to no avail.  She worked for a while and that kept her somewhat occupied but she still showed the signs of depression.  Once she retired we tried hiring her a respite worker so she could go out a couple of times a week and do something enjoyable…she never left the house.

I understand that older adults are still skeptical of mental health practice, but the ramifications of treatment are too huge to ignore.  Twenty years of depression has resulted in enormous physical pain, lack of medical care and that in turn has led to huge medical problems in the present.  She’s currently in the hospital quite ill because she didn’t say anything when her symptoms started…she was too depressed.  It wasn’t until she was in so much pain that she asked her daughter to take her to the emergency room.

As I talk to my partner, her son, we noted that we never really treated her depression.  She has been prescribed antidepressants by her doctor, but she only takes them if she really feels bad.  antidepressants don’t work like aspirin.  It takes two weeks to reach a therapeutic level in your blood stream.  Taking them every so often is just a waster of a pill.

I wish we’d performed an intervention much earlier on so that we could have addressed her depression, directly related to caregiving much earlier.  She’s a bit stubborn and resistant, but if we would have pushed harder maybe she wouldn’t be in the medical predicament she finds herself.  Maybe it’s easier for some people to get help for a medical condition than a mental health condition.  Perhaps sucking it up all those years as a caregiver just created too much toxicity in her system.

Why am I telling you my story?  Because caregiving is stressful.  It can have devastating physical impact on your body if left untreated.  What should you be doing?  Eating right and exercising.  You should join a caregiver support group or see a therapist or speak with a coach, someone like me who can guide you through the process of making sense of all the madness.  Stay engaged with family and friends because social relationships and fun (yes I said fun) is good for the immune system.

If you have any further questions I hope you’ll send them to me so I can answer them for you and the collective you.  Thanks for letting me share my story.


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