Defining carer depression
Looking after a close friend or loved one can be an amazing and rewarding experience, but doing this alongside or instead of your full time occupation can also be exhausting at times – with some unpaid carers doing it for years with little opportunity for breaks before seeking professional help.
Carer depression can manifest for a variety of reasons, such as pressure of juggling caring and family, work, and other commitments. It can also be hard when you don’t feel like you have any time to yourself, with every minute of the day filled with looking after others, which can put strain on your mental wellbeing and lead to a risk of depression.
Stress levels will vary depending on the condition the person is living with, how much they are able to do for themselves and whether they live alone or with you, and every circumstance is different. Someone who requires care is still an individual, but if you are beginning to feel depressed it can be difficult to keep an objective viewpoint at all times and you might find yourself resenting the person you’re caring for.
If this happens then it’s vital to talk to your GP or contact one of the carers’ hubs that exist, as they can give you tips for not just helping with your depression, but also advising you on what benefits may be available to pay for respite care, for instance. The NHS also has a useful self-assessment test on its website if you think you may be depressed.
Signs and symptoms of depression
It can be hard to admit you’re living with depression, especially to other people, and seeking support can be difficult when all you feel like doing is retreating into yourself. However, Carers UK advises that if you are feeling “hopeless, irritable, anxious, worried or tearful, unable to cope with every-day things that you would not have thought twice about in the past, losing your appetite, losing weight or having trouble sleeping” then you should consider seeking help from your GP as you are exhibiting symptoms of depression.
Carers are so focussed on the wellbeing of others that they may not even recognise that such symptoms are present in themselves and may just put how they’re feeling down to the usual amounts of stress and worry that they live with daily. The Mental Health Charity Mind says that carers “probably have less time to look after yourself, for example to be physically active, eat healthy food and relax. You may feel as though your health doesn’t take priority, or you don’t have time to get the help you need.”
Guilt can play a large part for carers too, as you can often feel that by wanting to make time for yourself it makes you a bad person, or it means you don’t want to be with your loved one, which of course, are not the case. Frustration and depression with the situation you have found yourself in can make you get angry and irritable with the person you’re caring for too, which in turn makes you feel guilty, but this kind of vicious cycle will only cause you to become more depressed if you don’t seek support for yourself eventually.
How to care for yourself
It’s vital that you seek support if you recognise that you are developing symptoms of depression, because untreated you may even be at risk of getting to a point where you’re thinking of harming yourself or someone else. To cope with the pressures of caring, some people turn to unhealthy habits such as drinking more or smoking, yet ultimately these will have negative impacts on your health, so consider instead going for a walk or doing breathing exercises. Carers UK recommends that you “Go out of the room – or right outside if you can – for at least five minutes. Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of three, then breathe out. Repeat again, until you feel more relaxed, but not so often that you feel dizzy.”
Many carers would like to be able to undertake activities for themselves or spend time away from their caring duties, but struggle to find time to take care of themselves due to their responsibilities. Even when that’s the case, deep breathing exercises, stretching, relaxing muscles or going out into the garden can be beneficial. If you’re not currently getting support from professional carers and worry that you can’t afford it, you may be surprised.
An hour’s visiting care from Helping Hands starts from just £20 for instance, and there are funding sources available if you have a low income. This could see you getting away to meet a friend for coffee, having a swim, going for a walk or just sitting in the park reading, if that’s what you’d feel like doing.
How Helping Hands can help prevent carer depression
The Alzheimer’s Society have done research in the area of carer stress and discovered that “high levels of carer stress and difficulty coping have been shown to precede the person with dementia moving into a care home” which can be something that the person themselves and their family never wanted to happen. This will see the person being distressed at having to leave the home they love and the family feeling guilty that it happened.
Before things get that far though, professional carers can come to your loved one’s home and make all the difference to their and your life, and at Helping Hands we are specialists in providing the highest quality homecare for people living with all types of conditions, which we’ve been doing for our customers since 1989. Visits from our carers can start from just 30 minutes per week, and we can undertake every aspect of your loved one’s care from, feeding and nutrition, preparing meals, personal care, mobility support and so much more.
We also provide live-in care if someone needs to be in the house with your loved one all the time, which will see them getting around the clock support with their care, as well as companionship when they want it. This means you could begin to explore your old way of life again, such as returning to work, taking a holiday or even just spending time with other family and friends.
We can also offer temporary respite care if you feel you need a break for a few weeks, before returning to your caring duties refreshed. Contact us today to discuss your care options, we’re available seven days a week to answer your calls. Alternatively, talk to us via our website and we’ll be happy to call you back.
Page reviewed by Carole Kerton-Church, Regional Clinical Lead on October 25, 2021