A lot of emotions are involved when caring for an elderly relative. As things wind towards the sunset of life, depression is a subtle emotion, coloring all aspects of life. Knowing what it is and how to deal with it is as important for the caregiver as it is for the elder who needs the help.
Depression is natural: Watching someone you love and respect declining before your eyes is enough to make anyone depressed. You know that the time is approaching when this person won’t be there anymore. You see the pain and confusion they are in. You see the anger that can happen in some elders. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t feel depressed. Instead, recognize it so you can deal with it.
Seek help: I won’t say you can’t go it alone. I will say that it’s a bad idea. What our family is going through isn’t the first time we’ve had to deal with it. I know what I need in order to stay mentally healthy, and I am using what I’ve found to work. Each of us is different, but the following suggestions have helped our family enormously.
Counseling: Having someone neutral to talk to is one of the best ways to get help. You can cry and the counselor will be there with a hug and a box of Kleenex. You can pour out the conflicting emotions and the counselor will help you get them sorted. Most of all, you can say things that you can’t to other family members.
Visualization: There are times when this will help keep you centered. This isn’t like “looking for your happy place.” It’s about using memories and thoughts to calm and soothe. I spent many years on a farm, so I find the 23rd Psalm ideal. I remember walking barefoot on fresh spring grass. I remember lying in a hammock listening to the creek run by. When I’ve gone through the whole Psalm, I am calmer and better able to help.
Herbs and medicines: There may be a time when you need more help than any of the above offers. Once again, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s a bad idea…unless it’s your doctor or pharmacist. The herbs and medications usually given for this are strong and the herbs can interact with both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Talk to your doctor and your pharmacist to find the best way to handle your situation.
While caregiver depression is natural, we don’t have to give in to it. Instead, find what you need and use it to help decrease the emotion. That will be good both for you and your elder.