Depression is a serious and common challenge facing more than 16 million Americans caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease. Family caregivers of individuals living with dementia related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s are at greater risk for depression than caregivers of people with other conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is providing tips to help caregivers combat depression.
“Alzheimer’s family caregivers frequently put their family member’s needs ahead of their own physical and emotional needs — often to the point where they become overwhelmed. Many experience depression brought on by exhaustion, stress, and feelings of isolation and loss. When these feelings start to occur, they shouldn’t be reluctant to seek help or open up,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, SIFI, AFA’s director of educational and social services. “Everyone needs to replenish themselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and it’s important that caregivers find ways to do that.”
AFA encourages family caregivers to take the following steps to help combat depression:
• Ask family members and friends for support. Many may be eager to help but not know how. Be specific and let people know what you need.
• Try relaxation exercises, such as meditation and yoga.
• Do physical activities — mind and body are interconnected.
• Take time for yourself. Even something simple like going for a walk can be relaxing.
• Look into respite care, so you have time both for the things you need to do and that you want to do. Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a health care facility or at an adult day center. To find respite care services in your area, contact AFA’s Helpline at 866-232-8484.
• Try journaling to express all your thoughts, both positive and negative. By writing about your feelings, you may also become more aware of the stress you feel.
• Join a caregiver support group. You will be with other people who understand exactly what you are going through and can share emotions and support as well as practical advice and resources, in a safe and understanding environment. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America currently offers free weekly telephone-based caregiver support groups.
• Get a good night’s sleep — speak to your doctor if you are struggling with sleep problems.
• Pay attention to nutrition. A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and healthful fats, while low in processed foods, may help with symptoms of depression.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has a Helpline, staffed entirely by licensed social workers and available seven days a week, which can provide additional information and support to caregivers, as well as help them find respite care services or caregiving help in their area. Connect by calling 866-232-8484, web chatting through AFA’s website, www.alzfdn.org, or sending a text message to 646-586-5283. The web chat and text message features can serve individuals in more than 90 different languages.
About Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide support, services and education to individuals, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide and to fund research for better treatment and a cure. Its services include a National Toll-Free Helpline (866-232-8484) staffed by licensed social workers, the National Memory Screening Program, educational conferences and materials, and “AFA Partners in Care” dementia care training for health care professionals. For more information about AFA, call 866-232-8484, visit www.alzfdn.org, follow us on Twitter or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. AFA has earned Charity Navigator’s top 4-star rating for seven consecutive years. ¦