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How to Avoid Depression Due to Chronic Illness

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A quick word from Caregiver Stress: Feedback we’ve received from our readers has gotten us excited to amplify the voices of caregivers throughout our site. This article introduces a new voice from our Caregiver Stress community and we’d love to hear you speak up by sharing a comment at the end of the article!

My mother has struggled with diabetes for several years. It always astounds me that no matter how responsible she is with others, she puts herself and her medical care last. We’ve had many discussions about this, but when her mood drops, it’s almost as if she’s a different person entirely.

We love to shop together, but sometimes she says she’s too exhausted to visit her favorite stores. She has even quit volunteering at church and stopped going to her book club. “It’s time for someone else to have a turn,” she explained, though that seemed like an excuse rather than an answer. Depression has always been in the back of my mind, but I figured that she has a right to feel downtrodden considering all of the medical complications she has experienced.

Chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis result in dramatic lifestyle changes, such as limited mobility and increased dependence on others. These illnesses can create limitations so that people like my mother can no longer engage in enjoyable activities or have hope about the future. With so many devastating changes, it’s easy to see why depression is one of the most common complications of chronic illness.

Occasionally, depression is actually a medication side effect. Also, depression can aggravate the symptoms of the illness itself, which spurs a negative cycle.

Early diagnosis and treatment of depression can reduce symptoms and decrease the risk of suicide. Therapy and medication are effective tools for battling depression. There is hope of significant improvement for your loved one. Here are a few tips for boosting mood and helping to reclaim your loved one’s lively spirit.

  • Build or nourish a support system: Isolation can exacerbate depression. Socialization helps your loved one feel like she’s not alone and boosts self-esteem. Joining activities or engaging in community may improve mood issues.
  • Maintain appropriate diet, exercise and medication: Proper nutrition and exercise can ward off many depressive symptoms. Also, check medication side effects to see if depression is listed and talk to a doctor if you feel your loved one may be affected.
  • Find the right doctor: If you don’t think your loved one’s doctor is trustworthy, search for one that will listen and adapt to patients’ needs. If you’re not sure where to turn, ask friends or family for recommendations. Also, consider contacting a therapist or psychologist for an evaluation.
  • Define success and goals: It’s important for your loved one to be reaching for an attainable goal. My mother couldn’t get out of the house to volunteer at the library, but instead of dwelling on what she used to be able to do, she writes encouraging letters to those who serve in her place. She also tries to read one book per week. Achieving something challenging yet realistic can bolster confidence and gives purpose.

For those like my mother who require extra support, non-medical in-home care services like those provided by the Home Instead® network can help address chronic illness challenges and decrease the resultant depressive symptoms. In-home care specialists provide companionship, nutrition assistance, encouragement to engage in activities, daily living support, medication reminders and transportation to medical appointments.

I have started to see changes in my mother already. It’s so nice to have my shopping partner back. After all, it’s hard to find someone with such good taste.

Which of these tips have you tried (or hope to try) with your loved one?
Related articles:
Signs of Depression Checklist
Caregiver Support Can Help Ward Off Depression, Illness
Resources Can Help Seniors Recognize Depression
Reminiscing Helps Ward off Depression, Study Reveals

Last revised: July 26, 2013

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 24, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Posted by Sunny

    I came across this site while trying to come up with options for my own care. I have CFS/ME and am struggling to keep up with daily life. I have been my own caretaker up until now, (with the help of a wonderful psychiatrist). He was my confidant and general care giver until he died last fall 2012. Now, at 62, my illness has taken a turn for the worse. I am always in a state of vertigo. I can't walk across the room without falling. Sometimes I make it a whole day without falling down. Well, enough about me. I'm sure I cannot afford your services.


  2. August 7, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Posted by MARIA TORRES.



  3. August 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Posted by carol Macas

    Thought this would be of help to all of us. DCH


  4. August 1, 2013 at 11:00 am | Posted by LUTCHME RAMLOGAN

    Hi,I am a caregiver from Trinidad&Tobago.We have no zip code here.I work with elderly pts.The pt. I am working with @present has Alzheimer's.I am just checking on the net for info on how to deal with her & things we can do to togetherI have gotten a lot of info so far.Thanks a lot.


  5. August 1, 2013 at 9:17 am | Posted by vicki cummings

    Having looked after my 88 yr. mother for many years it was decided to provide 24/7 care for her by a local agency who has two people now looking after my mother. I can tell my mother feels as though I have abandoned her (she has dementia, but still alert) and this makes me feel very guilty. I continue to go out and see but not five days a week as I was doing. also she trys to tell me (and I have seen this on occasion) that she really doesn't like one of the caregivers who is with her five days a week. What should I do and how can I get rid of my guilt of not being with my mother as often as I was....I do part time work and try my best to get out and see my mother.


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