The physical and emotional toll of caring for a senior loved one can be draining and isolating at times. There is probably no other time of year when that is more apparent than the holidays.
What can you do to help prevent the holiday blues and potentially a case of depression?
Here are some suggestions for tackling this holiday season and the year ahead.
Preventing Caregiver Depression during the Holidays
Prevention starts with recognizing that no caregiver can do it all on their own any time of year, let alone during the busy holiday season. Failing to accept this can put you at risk for a host of health problems, including clinical Depression.
Here are some steps you can take now to prevent falling victim to the holiday blues or depression:
- Accept help: Caregivers often feel duty bound to care for a senior loved one on their own. Even when an offer of help is extended, they may refuse it. This holiday season, give yourself permission to ask for and accept help. Whether it is from a friend who volunteers to run errands for you or a church program that assists homebound seniors, say “yes” during the holiday season and beyond.
- Explore respite care: Take advantage of a local assisted living community’s respite care services and adult day programs near you. During the holidays, these programs will give you freedom to participate in family gatherings or enjoy time with friends. Many health professionals recommend family caregivers make respite care a permanent part of their caregiving plan.
- Plan a potluck: In pre-caregiving years, parties at your home may have been elaborate affairs with a menu of delicious foods you prepared on your own. Don’t let a shortage of time keep you from hosting a festive gathering at your home. Friends and loved ones will likely be happy to bring a dish or two if it means spending time with you during the holidays.
- Physical activity: One of the best ways to prevent or beat the blues is with physical activity. Routine exercise, such as walking or riding a stationary bike, can help boost your mood.
- Quiet the mind: Meditation and yoga are two easy ways to quiet the mind and calm the spirit. Even a quick ten minutes each morning can help you start the day off right.
- Journaling: Another way to de-stress and cope with caregiving challenges is by journaling. Taking a few minutes at bedtime to get your thoughts, fears and frustrations down on paper can help you heal and move forward. It can also help you sleep better—a challenge for many weary caregivers.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Depression
Emotional wellness also necessitates caregivers learn to recognize the early signs of depression. These warning signs often include:
- Change in disposition or personality
- Being quick to anger or becoming tearful easy
- Unintentional weight gain or loss
- Feeling of fatigue that doesn’t go away even with a good night’s rest
- Sleep problems—whether it is sleeping too much, or not enough
- Physical health issues, such as headaches or digestive problems
- Difficulty completing tasks and making decisions
- Developing new negative behaviors, like drinking or smoking, to cope with stress
- Feeling resentful of the loved one you care for and of other family members
- Lack of interest in favorite pastimes and hobbies
If more than one or two of these warning signs could be used to describe how you are feeling, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Early intervention can help prevent a case of the blues from developing in to a more serious diagnosis of depression.
Sunrise Senior Living Caregiver Support Center
With more than 65 million adults in this country acting as a caregiver for someone they love, we know the need for resources and support is great. Check out our caregiver support center.
You will find resources that range from videos on caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s to ideas for finding a caregiver support group. You are likely to find answers to many of your caregiving challenges here!
With these resources and tips, we hope you’ll be able to make this holiday season a special time for your senior loved one, your family, and yourself.