As a caregiver, you are in an incredibly difficult position. The spotlight of sympathy and concern from friends, family and healthcare providers is focused on your loved one – while no one seems to be paying much attention to how you are coping with the very upsetting changes that are happening in your life. As time goes on, you may begin to feel lonely and unappreciated. These negative emotions, along with the knowledge that caregiving may not be for the short-term, set you up as a prime target for depression.

Know the signs

"Reaching out for help is by far the most important step, but admittedly it is almost never easy. The symptoms of depression, such as lethargy and hopelessness, can destroy your willingness to seek help."

Not all caregivers get depressed, but enough do that this is an important topic for all caregivers. Family caregivers who provide 36 or more hours of care a week have a significantly greater chance of experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety than non-caregivers. For those caring for a parent, the rate of depression is twice as high; and for spouses the rate is six times higher.

You are not alone if you are like the millions of caregivers who occasionally suffer from depression. If you provide care for a loved one and find yourself depressed, it’s important to ask yourself, “What can I do about depression now that it has seemingly taken a hold in my life?”

Ask for help

Reaching out for help is by far the most important step, but admittedly it is almost never easy. The symptoms of depression, such as lethargy and hopelessness, can destroy your willingness to seek help. You may be embarrassed by what you believe is the stigma of depression, and simply deny that anything is wrong. Or perhaps you've been blue for so long that you think it's only normal to feel bad. These can all keep you from taking that most important first step, which is getting help.

If you think you are suffering from depression, or know someone who is, ask for help. If the thought of trying to figure out how you'll ever find exactly the right treatment seems too daunting, don't be discouraged. The most important thing is to realize you need help and reach out to get it. There are resources that can start you down the path to recovery and a happier life.