It's natural for you to feel stressed now and then when you're taking care of your loved one. Sometimes, though, stress can lead to -- or be a symptom of -- depression. There are treatments that can help.
Here are some signs to watch for that might show you're getting depressed:
She could deal with constantly forgetting her shopping list, and she'd made a habit of writing down where she'd parked her car, each and every time. But in her mid-50s, Janis Mara's memory problems started costing her money. Late fees began piling up because she forgot to pay her bills.
"Over time, it really intensified," she says. "I wanted to think I was just getting older, but my fear was that it was Alzheimer's."
After bugging her HMO for an MRI, Mara discovered that her lapses weren't anything...
Change in sleep patterns, such as waking up earlier than normal in the morning, trouble getting to sleep, or needing more sleep
Weight gain or loss
Regular episodes of crying
Aches and pains that won't go away
Trouble staying focused, remembering, or making decisions
Grim feelings about the future
Feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless
Feeling irritable or stressed
Thoughts of death or suicide
Stomachache and digestive problems
If these symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, see your doctor.
Your doctor may treat your depression with antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
If you have psychotherapy, you'll talk to a therapist who can help you focus on the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that are contributing to your depression.
During your sessions with a therapist, you'll learn to identify the problems or situations (such as caring for an ill or elderly loved one) that may be affecting your mental health. You'll then figure out which of these problems can be solved and improved. It will allow you to regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
There are a few practical steps you can take to prevent depression. Get regular exercise and eat a balanced diet. That can help you avoid illnesses that can bring on depression.
It's also important to call your doctor right away if you feel overwhelmed by your caregiving tasks or notice any changes in your health, thinking, or behavior.