Thursday, July 19, 2007

Caregiver depression

There’s an article in today’s Montreal Gazette about caregivers and depression. It’s not new or breaking news, but it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront because of the many caregivers who are suffering silently from depression, anxiety, helplessness, and isolation.

Many people find themselves in the position of caring for an ailing family member or members. In our North American society, we usually aren’t prepared for this role and the job can be brought upon us so gradually that we don’t notice we’re doing it until it’s too late, or it’s thrust upon us so suddenly that we don’t know what has hit us.

As the population ages, more people are finding themselves in the position of caregiver. In many families, it’s one sibling who takes over the bulk of the work either because of geography or by design. Initially, the care is usually done without many issues, but as the person who needs care becomes more dependant, sicker, and/or more demanding, the caregiver can find him or herself working harder, working longer, and becoming more isolated.

It’s easy to see caregiver burn out and depression in the hospital setting. Many times, they just can’t handle the care any more and bring their loved one to the emergency room, hoping and praying for some sort of salvation. Unfortunately, the way our system is set up, rarely is that salvation available. We have a serious shortage of quality chronic care beds. We also have a serious shortage of people available to go and help out in the home or to provide respite care.

Often, the caregivers don’t know they are burning out until they do. They become ill themselves or they become overwhelmed with what is expected of them on a daily basis.

If you know someone who is a caregiver, even if you can’t lend a hand with the care, you can lend an ear, an arm, a shoulder. Be there, offer to help in ways that you can. If the caregiver doesn’t know of resources, maybe you can do the searching and provide the information. Caregivers don’t just need the help now, they need the help over the long-term, and even once their sick family member has gone.

And if you are the caregiver, take time for yourself. There is no point in being selfless and devoting yourself full-time to caring for someone else if you are going to end up sick yourself. You can only do a good job if you are healthy yourself – emotionally as well as physically.

News for today:
Chlamydia common among young women and men
Interventions During Hospital Stays Can Help Motivate Smokers to Quit
Intensive training of young tennis players causes spinal damage
Very young babies vulnerable to sudden death while seated
Low hospital staff levels increase infection rates

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Just a little support and an understanding ear can make all the difference to caregivers. As you point out, it's often almost an accident of geography that singles out one family member for this role, but other family members can help so much through their support of the caregiver.