Lois, 58 years of age, always knew she wasn't that great with hands-on caregiving. She convinced herself that she was a caretaker, not a caregiver. Caretaker meaning she would plan, organize and make sure proper caregiving was being done. Now she founds herself in a caregiving position and there are tough times. Lois' mom and stepfather are not unique to wanting to stay in their own homes.
"Research shows that as people age, they prefer to continue living independently, preferably in their own homes. While adult children often worry about their parent's situation, it can be difficult to know if parents really need, or want, help from their children."
Surveys and studies show that depression is a major problem with full-time informal caregivers. This is typically due to stress and fatigue as well as social isolation from family and friends. If allowed to go on too long, the caregiver can sometimes break down and may end up needing long-term care as well.
A typical pattern may unfold as follows:
• 1 to 18 months--the caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support.
• 20 to 36 months--the caregiver is taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless.
• 38 to 50 months--Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the caregiver's physical health is beginning to deteriorate. Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help. It is often at this stage that family or friends intercede and find other solutions for care. This may include respite care, hiring home health aides or putting the disabled in a facility. Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long-term care as well.
Roughly 70% of all long term care is provided in the home primarily by a spouse, a daughter or daughter-in-law. Since most informal caregiving is provided without training or counseling, individuals providing such care may not be aware of the inherent financial and emotional challenges.
Are you taking care of a loved one? Do you feel depressed? Read about caregiver stress?
Caregiver stress is the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. It can take many forms. For instance, you may feel:
- Frustrated and angry taking care of someone with dementia who often wanders away or becomes easily upset
- Guilty because you think that you should be able to provide better care, despite all the other things that you have to do
- Lonely because all the time you spend caregiving has hurt your social life
- Exhausted when you go to bed at night
- Caregiver stress appears to affect women more than men. About 75 percent of caregivers who report feeling very strained emotionally, physically, or financially are women.
- Although caregiving can be challenging, it is important to note that it can also have its rewards. It can give you a feeling of giving back to a loved one. It can also make you feel needed and can lead to a stronger relationship with the person receiving care. About half of caregivers report that:
- They appreciate life more as a result of their caregiving experience
- Caregiving has made them feel good about themselves
How can I tell if caregiving is putting too much stress on me?
Caregiving may be putting too much stress on you if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Becoming easily irritated or angered
- Feeling constantly worried
- Often feeling sad
- Frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs
Talk to a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional right away if your stress leads you to physically or emotionally harm the person you are caring for. Read the steps to see more about caregiver stress.
Contact http://caregivers.org/ for more information.
Medical Marijuana - to relieve caregiver stress
Medical marijuana is being used across the nation to treat people with qualifying medical conditions like AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, chronic pain and a lot of other ailments. Recent studies have shown that about 24 million people in America are using (or are eligible to use) medical marijuana, making the marijuana industry huge to the tune of 120 billion dollars annually. Since the Obama administration de-prioritized marijuana prosecutions at the federal level of people who are complying with state medical marijuana statutes, hundreds of businesses have been opened throughout the country to cultivate, distribute and sell medical cannabis to state qualified patients. The “State of the Medical Marijuana Markets 2011” indicates which states appear to have the most active markets and who is making the most money and how they are doing it
Drug abuse or dependence due to caregiving
The physical effects are just part of the picture. There are emotional and financial costs to caregiving as well. Caregivers report high levels of depressive symptoms. Dementia caregivers have been found to be particularly vulnerable to higher rates of depression and stress, as well as lower rates of general well-being. Overall, caregivers report a lower quality of life. As a caregiver, you may struggle with anxiety or social isolation. You might be frustrated or angry that you’re the one who has to be responsible for a family member’s care. Additionally, you may suffer financial strain if you lose time from work or need to take on additional expenses.
Depression and Caregiving
What are the symptoms of caregiver depression?
Everyone has a bad day sometimes. However, to be diagnosed with depression — also called major depression — you must have five or more of the following symptoms over a two-week period. At least one of the symptoms must be either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful
- Diminished interest or feeling no pleasure in all — or almost all — activities most of the day, nearly every day
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
- Insomnia or increased desire to sleep nearly every day
- Either restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
- Trouble making decisions, or trouble thinking or concentrating nearly every day
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt
Advice to help you through:
- Reach out for help. Don't wait until you feel overwhelmed to ask for help caring for a loved one. If possible, get your whole family involved in planning and providing care. Seek out respite services and a caregiver support group. A support network can keep you from feeling isolated, depleted and depressed.
- Remember other relationships. Caregiving can take time away from replenishing personal relationships — but showing loved ones and friends you care about them can give you strength and hope.
- Start a journal. Journaling can improve your mood by allowing you to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions.
- Take time for yourself. Participate in activities that allow you to relax and have fun. Go to a movie, watch a ballgame, or attend a birthday party or religious gathering. Physical activity and meditation also can help reduce stress.
- Stay positive. Caregiving allows you to give something back and make a difference in your loved one's life. Caregiving might also have spiritual meaning for you. Focus on these positive aspects of caregiving to help prevent depression.