In my role as the Community Health Team social worker, I am honored to work with some amazing and hardworking caregivers. Many of the caregivers I work with are spouses and adult children trying to adjust to this new role and incorporate it into their current life.
The complexities of taking on this role can often lead to high levels of stress, which over time and without alleviation can pose a risk to the caregiver. As a result the caregiver can experience clinical depression. Family caregivers in particular are at high risk for depression. Research has also demonstrated this risk for depression continues even after the death of the care recipient.
It is extremely important that providers and community members support caregivers in accessing supports and practicing self care. The Alzheimer’s Association lists the following signs that a caregiver may be experiencing high levels of stress:
- Denial about the disease and the effect it is having on the person who has been diagnosed
- Anger at the person with dementia and/or with others for not understanding
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities that previously brought pleasure
- Depression – “I don’t care anymore”
- Exhaustion that makes it very difficult to complete necessary daily tasks
- Sleeplessness often caused by worry for the care recipient
- Lack of concentration
- Developing health problem
It is vital to seek help when you start to feel this way, or if a caregiver you know is struggling with these issues, encourage them to seek assistance. The first step is talking with your healthcare provider, or the health care provider for the care recipient.
It is important to develop a plan of care for yourself that includes regular breaks from care, time with friends, information about the care recipient’s diagnosis, planning for your own health and financial future, and perhaps accessing counseling and/or group support. Remember to give yourself the credit you deserve for taking on this difficult job.
Jennifer Daley, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and member of the UVM Medical Center’s Community Health Team.