Care For the Caregiver

Posted on April 24, 2012


Nearly half (53%) of all informal caregivers reporting a decline of health
affecting their ability to provide care.
 In an effort to be there for the health
of a loved one, many caregivers sacrifice their own health

Caring for an aging loved one can be a challenging experience. It can be difficult to
slowly watch a family member lose their independence and often, their mental
capacities. More often than not it is a middle aged family member who takes on
the responsibility of being the primary caregiver for their parents. Without
additional support, this caregiver can quickly find themselves overwhelmed and
depressed. While many caregivers find themselves up for the challenge, others
may find it more difficult to adjust to the constant demand of being a home
care provider.

Stress and depression can come in many forms. Often, caregivers have to take a leave of absence from work, or they have to cut back their hours to be at home more often. As a result, both parties have to sacrifice and do without. The
loss of monthly capital can lead to stress as it becomes harder to pay the
monthly bills. Additionally, the loss of personal interactions with colleagues
in the workplace can leave a caregiver feeling lonely and isolated. Managing
one’s family can also be difficult and being a caregiver can also lead to
stress in the marriage and immediate family. To avoid sacrificing one’s health
and family for the care of a family member, a caregiver must provide care for
themselves first so they may be able to care for another

There are various ways for a caregiver to stay positive during the time they spend caring for someone. Rather than feeling trapped, a caregiver should do their best to encourage social interactions for both themselves and their aging parents or patients. Dinner socials, poker/bridge nights, and birthday parties should all be encouraged to maintain a festive attitude throughout the home, and to avoid it from feeling like a prison. Maintaining a clean home can help keep good spirits and inviting visitors will
give you a good reason to clean and to stay positive. The caregiver should also make an effort to invite their family to these events to help maintain closeness and to promote family interaction during this time of change.

While maintaining social interactions can help a caregiver stay healthy, many others find success by turning inwards and focusing the time on improving themselves. Some may choose to take up a hobby or learn a new skill, while
others may choose to begin an exercise regimen to improve their own health.
This can be light to moderate exercise; just enough to get your blood pumping.
Feel free to invite your aging family member to also get moving as much is
safely possible. Regardless of age, most seniors can benefit from staying


Submitted by Gabriela F. Brown, CSA
Owner, Constant Companions Home Care
gbrown@constantcompanions.netPhone and Fax: 888.883.8393

Grief into Depression – Why Can’t Mom Just ‘Snap Out of It’?

Posted on April 3, 2012

Why Can’t Mom Just ‘Snap Out of It’?

Last year, I received a call from Sharon, the adult daughter of a potential client, Bette. Her father, Burt, had passed away a little over a year ago from an extended battle with cancer and Bette had been his primary caregiver.  Until his passing, Bette was
mobile, energetic and rarely sick. Once Burt passed away, Bette became a ‘different person’ rarely leaving the house. Her sunny, upbeat disposition had turned into an apathetic approach to everything and everyone in her life.

Sharon shared that she admired her mother more than anyone she had ever met for being able to ‘handle anything’. She had always met life’s challenges with strength and
optimism, being able to formulate a plan to overcome any obstacle put in her way. Now, she was little more than a shadow of her former self and unable to properly maintain the house, herself or any of her relationships. Sharon was concerned because she was unable to ‘snap out of it’ and Bette was beginning to decline physically.

Because Sharon’s life was so hectic, she felt terrible that she could only get over to her mother’s house a couple of times a week, and when she got there she was overwhelmed with what needed to be done, grocery shopping, cleaning out the fridge, making sure there was easily accessible meals to be prepared and questioning whether she was taking her medications as prescribed, etc. The house itself was also being neglected severely, with the bare minimum being done to keep things going.

While both Sharon and Bette would benefit from a home care worker, there were deeper issues that needed to be addressed. Bette had been the primary caregiver to her husband of 60+ years as he lost the battle with cancer. She had focused all of her energy and purpose into his care for several years. When he passed away, Bette faced a dual life transition. She had lost her life status as a caregiver and she was no longer Burt’s wife of 60+ years. With his death she was faced with excruciating loneliness and loss of purpose.  Her family had been there for her right after his death to help but had assumed that she was adjusting well and would be able to handle things. A year later, it was clear that what may have started out as a normal bereavement and grief period had extended beyond a healthy timeframe. At this time, she felt dependent on her family for care and this new dependence pushed her even deeper down.

It is not uncommon for the ‘strong and capable’ family member in this situation to experience depression due to their history of being ‘strong and capable’. Often, those around them and they themselves have the expectation that after a ‘normal’ period of time, they will ‘pull themselves up by their boot straps’, as they always have. Paradoxically, this is the person that is least likely to ask for help may be suffering silently. It is as if they are unable to see themselves as needing any help or being unable to ask for it. Additionally, physicians tend to overlook signs of depression with seniors and many assume that depression is a normal part of loss. Old assumptions and patterns are tough to overcome.

After speaking with Sharon, I advised her to make an appointment immediately with Bette’s physician regarding her decline. She also had to have a gentle talk with her mother about the possibility of being able to see a brighter world through possible interventions of medication and counseling.

We did provide a caregiver for Bette for about 4 months. In the meantime, Bette’sdoctor found the right medications and she participated in support groups. After a while, Bette turned the corner and was increasingly able to care for herself and her home again. She now does her own grocery shopping enjoys making her meal and even invites others, primarily from her support group, over for meals. Now, when her family visits, they are able to enjoy her company and provide the companionship that only family can provide. They no longer are in the role of caregiver, which is really helping to restore Bette back to her old self.

Every bereavement experience is unique, but if you have aloved one that is not improving after about two months, a visit to their physician may be in order in addition to grief counseling. Counseling and/or medications can make the fog of depression lift allowing them to slowly begin to feel pleasure and purpose again, the two reasons we ALL need to lead a satisfying life.


Submitted by Gabriela F. Brown, CSA
Owner, Constant Companions Home Care