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Caring for the Caregiver

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July 9, 2012

It’s easy to understand how caregivers can become depressed. The constant strain of caring for an older loved one could weaken the resolve of even the most steadfast and dedicated family members.

As it turns out, repressing emotions may take a terrible toll on family caregivers. Research conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care® network reveals that caregivers who hide their emotions are 2.3 times more likely than other caregivers to have experienced depression since becoming a caregiver.

Caregiving expert Dr. Amy D’Aprix notes, “It’s great to free up caregivers to express their emotions as just that – their true feelings about what they’re going through on their caregiving journey.”

Caregivers who hide their feelings are more likely to experience specific negative physical and health changes associated with caregiving including fatigue, difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure, Home Instead Senior Care network research reveals.

The support of others is one important way to deal with the impact of caregiver depression. One family caregiver who has been at home caring for a dying husband described to Dr. D’Aprix in her Ask Dr. Amy column the despair of caring for a dying spouse.

“I see no brighter tomorrows. Each day I hold on for him. What will be my purpose then? I need to connect to others that feel this terrible loss in their lives. I need a reason to want to live again.”

In this case, Dr. D’Aprix advises her to ask the hospice center that has been providing her husband support for help. “As well as taking care of the physical and emotional needs of people who have a terminal illness, their role is also to provide support to the patient’s family. They may offer counseling and support groups, and they can also refer you to resources in the community. The hallmark of hospice care is that it is designed to help the whole family and not just the person who is dying.”

Dr. D’Aprix says that the loss of family caregiving, which often triggers this depression, may ease. “In time and with the proper support, the intensity of the grief will lessen and you will be able to create a 'new normal' in your life where you once again can experience happiness,” she noted. “I know that hospice will be a wonderful resource for helping you through this very difficult time.”

Learn how to deal with these issues with helpful and practical advice from Dr. D’Aprix.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 25, 2013 at 10:37 am | Posted by Barbara Stahura

    Excellent article! One powerful way for family caregivers to release stress is to write in a journal, even for a few minutes several times a week. Lots of studies have demonstrated the benefits of releasing deep emotions and troubled thoughts onto the page (paper or electronic), and the result can be better all-around well-being.


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