Caring for a sick or elderly loved one can be such a rewarding experience. But it can also be very difficult, especially if you, as the carer, have little support yourself. In this scenario, you may find you have been caring full time with no break for a long time. You may be juggling caring with another paid job, possibly with regularly broken sleep.
The combination of stress and pressures from the responsibility of caring, along with the lack of time for your own life can lead to feelings and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Carer depression is more common than you may think
- Carers who care for a loved one with a mental health problem have a significantly higher risk of experiencing their own issues with mental health.
- 71% of carers have poor physical or mental health.
- A study found 84% of carers feel more stressed, 78% feel more anxious and 55% reported that they suffered from depression because of their caring role.
Common causes of carer depression
These are some of the common issues that, over time, can lead to symptoms of carer depression.
- Stress – As the main carer you may find you worry constantly about your loved one, their health and their future. This stress can build over time and can lead to you experiencing mental health difficulties.
- Anxiety – If you find you have a lot of anxiety on a day-to-day basis, this too can build up over time and become overwhelming.
- Loss of self – Caring for someone full time often means you have little or no time to care for yourself. You lose friendships and hobbies, leaving you feeling lonely and unfulfilled. Very often your own health and wellbeing are forgotten as you constantly put your loved one first.
- Money worries – Maybe you lost an income when your loved one became ill or maybe you lost your income in order to become a full-time carer. You may have extra costs now relating to medical needs or regular travel to appointments.
- Lack of sleep – A lack of sleep can adversely affect your mental and physical health over time.
- Resentment and Guilt – Although you want to care for your loved one, it’s completely normal to feel some resentment if, in doing so, you’ve lost your own joy in life. Then you may feel guilty for feeling that way and so the cycle continues.
What are the symptoms of carer depression?
Depression has many symptoms, so it’s all about spotting them early. Carers UK advises to consider seeking help from a doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis:
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, worried, or tearful
- Feeling unable to cope with everyday things that you would not have thought twice about in the past
- Losing your appetite, losing weight, or having trouble sleeping
- In extreme cases, you might even think about harming yourself or other people
- Depression can build up gradually, so you may not realise how much it is affecting you
Due to the stressful nature of their lives, carers can be more prone to depression. If you are unsure, the NHS has a helpful self-assessment tool you could try: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/overview/
What can you do to help?
If you’re feeling overworked and overwhelmed, then seeking support is the first thing to do. This can be physical support with the tasks involved in caring for your loved one. Or it could be emotional support for you. People can’t help if they don’t know you are struggling.
Take time out if you can. Ask friends or family if they can take over for some short breaks throughout the week, or maybe for a longer period weekly. You could use this time to take a bath, rekindle an old hobby or have lunch with friends.
If you know your mood is very low, talk to a doctor. There are many ways to support your mental well-being and prevent worsening symptoms that may, ultimately, leave you unable to care for your loved one at all.
Visit here for 5 top tips to help carers care for themselves.
How can Eximius help?
It can be a very positive and rewarding experience to know you are helping someone else, but that doesn’t make it easy or stress-free.
At Eximius, we can provide a range of care to suit all requirements. Whether you would like us to take over all the care, provide a little day-to-day support or simply provide a little respite care a few times a year, we can help.
If you feel you could benefit from some additional help at home, we love to hear from you. Get in touch and we can have a chat about how we can support you.