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Caregiver Depression? Try This

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If caregiving has you feeling overwhelmed or stressed you to the point you think you may actually be depressed, you’re not alone.

As Cy Sarah, a participant in our Caregiver Stress Relief  online community said, “When I get overwhelmed, it's because I'm not taking time for myself, so I'm learning to build time into the schedule of appointment, paperwork, chores, etc., just for me...specifically doing something that I like and I want and will help me.”

A recent survey conducted by Home Instead Inc. showed that 31 percent of family caregivers experience significant stress. Caregiving can be very rewarding, but it also can contribute to feelings of anxiety, isolation and guilt.

If you believe you may be experiencing caregiver depression, take heart. Research conducted by Harvard Medical School  found that exercise may work as well as antidepressant medications in easing symptoms of depression.

If you hate exercise or wonder how on earth you’re supposed to find time for fitness during your hectic caregiving day, we have some tips to help. Try these approaches:

  • Pick an activity before you try finding time for it. Many experts advise making fitness a priority by scheduling it on your calendar to ensure you honor your commitment. But it’s easy to skip the workout if you hate exercising. To solve this problem, try choosing a fitness activity before you commit to exercising regularly. It’s easy to find time for doing something fun.
  • Try different types of fitness activities to find the right fit. Exercise is like shoes: you often have to try on several pairs to find the one that feels the best. If you find it boring to walk every day, try signing up for an exercise class. If the idea of exercising with a group with other people puts you off, try popping a fitness DVD into your player at home. Keep trying out different types of fitness until you find something that fits your tastes.
  • Reach back into childhood for fun ideas. What activities did you enjoy as a kid? Shooting baskets? Nature walks? Dance class? Treat yourself like a kid again by taking up an activity you haven’t done for a long time. You may find it’s just as fun today as you remember it being when you were a kid.
  • Don’t make things complicated. Aim for 10 minutes a day of physical activity to start with. It can be something as simple as boogeying around the living room to your favorite music. Anything to get your blood pumping!
  • Create a respite plan to ensure you have time for exercise. If your loved one can’t be left alone for even half an hour, you probably need some caregiving help. Enlist the aid of other family members, friends, a neighbor or a paid caregiver to give you some breathing room. You will be a better caregiver if you keep yourself in good health.
  • Exercise with your loved one. Exercise benefits seniors in many ways. If you can’t get away to exercise on your own, try finding a class or program that will allow both of you to get fit together. Or simply go walking.

Refresh your body and spirit with a little exercise during the coming weeks and see if it lifts your mood. Visit the Family Caregiver Stress Relief section for more information and resources that can help you manage the challenges of caregiving.

Last revised: January 6, 2015

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 14, 2017 at 2:09 am | Posted by Mary Foran

    "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".


  2. June 14, 2017 at 2:06 am | Posted by mary foran

    A friend of mine had a near-death experience and from that discovered joy in life itself. That change in attitude clears away the clouds and helps one focus on what really, really matters. Taking care of yourself while CareGiving for others is the constant challenge. You can only give of yourself when you give to yourself!


  3. January 6, 2016 at 10:10 am | Posted by Patty

    I'm 74 and been caring for my mother in law for three weeks 24/7 with no relief. Exhausted!!!


  4. March 25, 2015 at 6:19 pm | Posted by Mary Lou schneider

    Yes I am a caregiver, I am 84 yrs old, I have cared for my mom, my mother in law, baby sat full time for several grandchildren, had custody of three grandchildren for seven years recently, one of which I am now guardian as he is severely autistic and intellectually disabled. Now my senior citizen son is disabled and I need to see that he can apply for SSI, I am so tired, depressed and there is no money it seems for respite. Guess this is the way it is, somehow I need to be content the way it is.


  5. January 12, 2015 at 11:47 pm | Posted by Elizabeth inspire me! I'm not dealing with half of that and, most days, I wonder how I'll even put one foot in front of the other. You are in my prayers for continued strength, good health & joy. Thank you for sharing your story, I know it will help many of us.


  6. January 9, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Posted by Lucile McKenzie

    I go to an aerobics class three times a week. It begins at 7:15 a.m. so it's not easy to do. However, an added bonus is that every Friday some of us meet right after class for coffee as a reward for sticking it out all week. The exercise, plus the companionship once a week is most helpful. On mornings when I have trouble getting up early to go to class, I remind myself that I feel so much better when I attend regularly. I think we all need to find our own way to exercise, but my point is that, yes, exercise in any form is a real help in fighting depression.


  7. January 8, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Posted by PATSY CONGLETON

    I have never been a nurse for sure and when my husband returned home after months in the hospitals and rehabs after various life threatening incidents such as two major surgeries, a stroke resulting in being placed on life support and finally falling in rehab breaking his femor and cracking his hip, I was faced with a stressful situation like I had never expected--his condition combined with Alzheimers/Dementia causing incontinence was a little intimidating to say the least. I learned patience I never knew I had and learned that I COULD change a adult diaper and on and on---taking one day at a time and learning that I had to take time also for myself. It is amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it. I am blessed that I still have my health and thankful I am able to do this with support from family and home health.


  8. January 8, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Posted by cathy santamore

    when I feel depressed I go for a walk on the beach it works, It takes all your worries away. I no because I went threw a DIVORCE last year it was eating away and I didn't want it to effect my job so I moved to the beach. And has been the best medicine the air and the ocean. and I exercising too besides the walk so it works or try some yogo works to cathy santamore


  9. January 8, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Posted by Pat Valente

    After I was laid off from my permanent job in February 2012, my then 92-year-old mother had suffered a back injury from a fall at home that required my full time help for nearly six months. Mom then suffered several more fall injuries at home until she was moved into local assisted living in April 2013. Mom was later moved into and lived near an out-of state family member from August 31, 2013 until she passed at age 95 in November 2014 with a family member at her side. Thank God my brother was with her to help me out.


  10. January 8, 2015 at 11:45 am | Posted by Katherine Schedler

    A good British mystery on my tablet/DVD/recorded book combined with walking on my treadmill (or riding a stationary bike) is "my cup of tea." Both body and mind get needed exercise, as I get lost in the mystery, forget I'm exercising and enjoy sipping a glass of water and/or that actual cup of tea following this needed workout.


  11. January 7, 2015 at 8:44 pm | Posted by Ellie

    Fortunately, we have three dogs and a house that needs caring for. This is my way of exercising. It's amazing how having four-legged friends is a help, mentally and physically.


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