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Depression and Caregiving


caregivers and depression

I just got back to Miami last week and I’ve been in a bit of a funk.

I miss being in North Carolina and this time I left the dogs and the hubby behind. For the first time in weeks the sun is actually shining and I have the whole house to myself. It’s every caregivers dream come true, so what’s up with my mood?

If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was depressed. 

The reality is that I have Missing Disease.

I miss my old home in Miami Beach where I cared for mom and the kids, I miss North Carolina, the dogs, the hubby, although not in that order. I miss the chaos of the fun times and having a full house...I miss all the big windows where the light streamed in.

I miss my “normal” life.

The same thing goes for many of my caregivers and people with dementia.

A few months back, a client confided in me that she was depressed. We spoke about the sadness and loss of being a caregiver. This woman is the most active 85-year-old that I know! She still works, exercises, and socializes but the daily strain and worry over her husband with mild dementia has been getting to her. She had tried several anti-depressants over the past year but they didn’t help.

We talked about grief and sadness for the future that has changed.

Hearing so much about the wonders of medication through television advertisements she was convinced that there was a medication for her that would work and she went to see a new psychiatrist.

When I saw her at our next visit she was so much more upbeat that I was curious about which medication the doctor had gaven to her. It turns out the doctor spent time talking with her and then diagnosed her with “Missing Disease”.

According to her doctor, many of the elderly are incorrectly diagnosed with depression because they are feeling sad. My client had every right to feel sad. Her husband has dementia and she's worried about him and their future together. The daily questions and forgetfulness have been getting to her because its been changing her state of “normal”. So the prescription that she got from her doctor was to talk with me!

Unfortunately, the word "depression" has been too over-used in our society. Whenever we are down we automatically think that it’s depression. People look confused when I ask them if they are depressed or sad!

Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods of time.

Sadness is a normal process and reaction when we are disappointed. Let’s face it, as dementia caregivers we have a lot to be sad about!

Loss of control, unexpected changes, stressful life events, time demands, increased responsibility, additional expenses, fear, anxiety, worry, contemplating the future.....a total change of our "normal".

There are many remedies for Missing Disorder and none of them involve a trip to the pharmacy. Some of the techniques that work well are talk therapy, aromatherapy, meditation, nature therapy, music and art therapy and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. 

Here are your top 5 Dementia Zone tips that you should know about depression

1- True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer.

2- Check for a medical condition. Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, lack of sleep, heart conditions and drug interactions can cause depression.

3- Medication may be helpful in the short term (and so are placebos). Studies have shown that anti-depressants are most helpful for those who have severe depression.

3- Talk therapy has been shown to be more effective then medication and there are no side effects! Find a good counselor or support group.

4- For many, depression will run its coarse. Despite what you may believe, you may not need to be on medication for the rest of your life. Often times, the reason people feel worse when they go off their medications is due to physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

5-Check the three S’s- get enough Sleep, get a boost from Sunshine, get a handle on your Stress.

About that client ... I saw her yesterday and she is as happy as can be!

Tune into the next article to find out why. But for now, enjoy the story of Bob and Babs:


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