For new caregivers, depression is a clear and present danger. As the fourth of the five stages of grief, first described by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, depression is the manifestation of an intense preoccupation with the present. While loved ones suffer through the symptoms of diseases such as familial amyloid polyneuropathy, caregivers may feel their efforts are in vain. New caregivers can be discouraged by the seemingly hopeless circumstances surrounding the task of caring for a loved one.
Caregivers must be aware of depression symptoms and be proactive in mitigating its effects. Symptoms may occur sporadically and involve both scarcity and excess. Following are some of the signs of which to be aware.
Feeling sad, hopeless, and empty
As a caregiver, you face the task of caring for a loved one who is dealing with the loss of vitality. The onset of a disease such as polyneuropathy brings us face to face with the inevitability of death. Someone we love is failing in health, and this makes us more keenly aware of our own fate.
My mother-in-law is dealing with severe nerve damage and loss of function due to polyneuropathy. She has struggled with depression. Her feelings of hopelessness were shared by family members who provided care for her. She admitted that as well as feelings of sadness, she had lost the will to live. As her caregivers, we had to overcome our feelings to let my mother-in-law know that she is loved and that her life is worth living.
We planned activities to include my mother-in-law in when she was physically able for it. The time spent together enjoying each other’s company and focusing on leisure gave us a deeper perspective of our caregiver roles.
Anger and irritability
When faced with depression, caregivers and patients alike are prone to irritability. Left unchecked, this irritability lends itself to angry outbursts. Caregivers commit a significant amount of their time. It can seem that we no longer have any free periods, let alone time for our careers. This loss of freedom leads to anger and frustration over matters that from the outside can appear to be trivial.
We must realize that dwelling in our anger and frustration is eroding our ability to care for our loved ones. When stewing in frustrations over their illness and our loss of time, we give anger full control over the situation.
When caring for my mother-in-law, my family took the time to focus on the things we enjoyed. This leisure time allowed us to heal and be more productive. Writing was an outlet for my sister-in-law. She recorded her feelings in a journal; this project developed into a self-published novel. My wife and I made sure to take time to recharge and go out on date nights. With the stress of giving care weighing on new caregivers, making time for rest and relaxation is crucial to fighting off the onset of caregiver depression.
Anxiety and restlessness in caregivers
The uncertain nature of illnesses such as familial amyloid polyneuropathy leave caregivers susceptible to anxiety. We don’t know how long the illness will last, the duration of our caregiver role, or the timespan for recovery. This lack of clarity can lead to anxiety and restlessness in new caregivers.
As caregivers, it’s essential to focus on our role in caring for a loved one who is suffering. We must give them our best at this time. New caregivers can benefit from a support group and having someone to encourage them such as a relative, trusted friend, or counselor. They should seek out communities of fellow caregivers. When faced with caregiver depression, new caregivers need to know that they are not facing their roles alone.
Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.