Families and friends provide about 80 percent of all full-time care for elderly loved ones. In pure numbers, 44 million American families are providing live-in caregiver or home care to a loved one.
As any mother can tell you, looking after someone else full-time can be an extremely draining emotionally and physically. With the amount of people aged 65 and over expected to quadruple in the next 30 years, it is reasonable to assume that more and more live-in caregivers will experience caregiver stress.
When you’re looking after someone else’s needs on top of the needs of other family members and work, particularly when an elderly person’s needs change or increase as their mobility or abilities decrease, it’s easy to see how caregiver burnout happens.
The Facts about Caregiver Depression
It is estimated that about 20 percent of family caregivers suffer from caregiver depression. It is likely that this number is much higher.
In fact, nearly 60 percent of clients of California’s Caregiver Resource Centers show clinical signs of depression, and 41 percent of caregivers for spouses with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia experienced mild to severe depression up to three years after their spouse died. (Family Caregiver Alliance)
It is important to note, however, that caregiving itself does not cause caregiver depression and not everyone who is a caregiver will experience it. Caregiver burnout and caregiver stress happens when caregivers neglect their own need of support and respite. Anxiety, isolation, exhaustion and the guilt associated with having these feelings at all can take their toll.
Many in today’s society still view depression and asking for help as a sign of weakness. It is hard to pinpoint all the emotions and their physical impact on the rest of the body because each caregiver is different and each caregiving situation is different.
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Beware of the following symptoms or a combination of symptoms, particularly if they persist for longer than two weeks in a row:
• Change in eating habits and resultant weight gain or weight loss