Caregiving Can Lead to Depression

Being a caregiver is not easy. Being a family caregiver is even more difficult as you had the family connection to the physical burden of helping a person with...

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Caregiving Can Lead to Depression
5 Min Read July 27th, 2017 Updated:August 29th, 2020

Being a caregiver is not easy. Being a family caregiver is even more difficult as you had a family connection to the physical burden of helping a person with Long-Term Care and activities of daily living. Since more people live to older ages, more family members, usually daughters and daughters-in-law, become the default caregiver in the absence of any advance plan. 

This juggling of responsibilities by the caregiver often leads to depression and other health issues.  

Richard Schulz, Ph.D. and Paula R. Sherwood, Ph.D., RN, CNRN notes in an article in The American Journal of Nursing, that, "Clinical observation and early empirical research showed that assuming a caregiving role can be stressful and burdensome."

Being a Family Caregiver is Stressful

He says that caregiving has all the features of a chronic stress experience.

  • It creates physical and psychological strain over extended periods.
  • With caregiving comes high levels of unpredictability and uncontrollability.
  • It can create secondary stress in multiple life domains such as work and family relationships and frequently requires high vigilance levels. 
  • Caregiving also fits the formula for chronic stress so well that it is used as a model for studying chronic stress's health effects. 

Read more here.

According to the American Psychological Association, family caregivers play a critical role in our health and long-term care system by providing a significant proportion of the chronically ill and aging care. 

Who Are Family Caregivers and What Services Do They Provide?  

  • A typical family caregiver in the U.S. is female, approximately 46 years old, has at least some college experience, and spends an average of 20 hours or more per week providing unpaid care to someone 50 or older. However, the proportion of caregivers who are men is also substantial (NAC & AARP, 2004). 
  • Rates of caregiving can vary somewhat by ethnicity. Among the U.S. adult population, approximately one-fifth (21%) of both the Caucasian and African-American populations are providing informal care. In comparison, a slightly lower percentage of Asian-Americans (18%) and Hispanic-Americans (16%) are family caregivers (NAC & AARP, 2004). 
  • Duties of caregivers are usually full time and include, but are not limited to: cooking, cleaning, bathing, medical care adherence monitoring, errand running (grocery shopping, transportation to appointments), and other activities of daily living (ADLs). 
  • Family caregivers who provide care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease offer more ADL assistance than non-Alzheimer's caregivers due to the impairments of the care recipient (Alzheimer's Association, 2004).

Impact on the Caregiver is Tremendous  

  • Caregivers report suffering from increased physical ailments than non-caregivers (Roth, Haley, Owen, Clay, & Goode, 2001). These include, but are not limited to, chronic pain such as headaches and backaches (Wight, LeBlanc, & Aneshensel, 1998), and weakened immune systems (Shewchuk, Richards, & Elliott, 1998). Over time, caregiving may erode one's subjective experience of health (Wight et al., 1998). 
  • Caregiving can also have significant consequences on mental health. Compared to their non-caregiving counterparts, family caregivers report higher levels of stress/distress, depression, emotional problems, and cognitive problems (Brehaut et al., 2004; Douglas & Daly, 2003). 
  • Estimates suggest that between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have clinically significant depression symptoms, with approximately one-fourth to one-half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression (Zarit, 2006). 
  • Caregivers who experience strain in care provision have the most significant physical and psychological health effects, including symptoms of depression; higher levels of anxiety; and inadequate time for sleep, self-care, and other health-related activities (Schulz, Mittelmark, Burton, Hirsch, & Jackson; Schulz & Beach, 1999). In fact, strained caregivers had a 63 percent greater chance of death within four years than non-caregivers (Schulz & Beach, 1999). 
  • Female caregivers fare worse than their male counterparts, reporting higher levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms and lower levels of subjective well-being, life satisfaction, and physical health than male caregivers (Miller & Cafasso, 1992; Pinquart & Sorensen, 2006; Yee & Schulz, 2000). 
  • Family caregivers also face financial burdens, as estimated caregiver out-of-pocket expenses are, on average, $2,400 per year to help care recipients (AARP, 2007). Further, family caregivers can experience loss in wages and other work-related benefits due to changes in work patterns (AARP, 2007). 

Family caregivers suffer from depression in more significant numbers. This article reviews the symptoms of depression and the reason family caregivers suffer from depression.

The "Sandwich Generation"

You might be like many "sandwich generation" members who, in addition to your own careers and family responsibilities, deal with being a full-time or part-time caregiver for an older parent. 

Understand the impact on the caregiver is critical to your own health and well-being. This experience and the experience of so many other people should require you to ask yourself what have you done to make sure this burden is not placed on your family.  

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance Gives You Choice

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance provides resources for quality caregivers in the settings you get to choose. Also, it reduces the burdens placed on family members by the consequences of long-term care. 

This is why so many people are adding affordable Long-Term Care Insurance to their retirement plan well before they retire.  

These policies will safeguard assets like your 401(k) IRA 403(b) and other savings from the financial costs and burdens of aging. 

Partnership LTC Policies Provide Additional Asset Protection

Many states offer partnership plans which provide additional asset protection. These unique policies provide you with dollar-for-dollar asset protection. This allows you to design a plan specifically to protect the amount of assets you own. Since these policies are custom-designed, this gives you the ability to buy only the amount of insurance you need. 

The cost of long-term care services will have a significant drain on your future income and assets. Find out the current and future cost of care in your area using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator. Access this tool by clicking here.

Get Help from a Specialist

Many experts suggest working with a Long-Term Care Insurance specialist before you retire to find the most affordable options, including shared spousal benefits, partnership plans, and case management, which help the family find and arrange for care on your behalf. 

Find a trusted, experienced specialist by clicking here.

The fact is long-term care impacts you, your family, your savings, and your lifestyle. An affordable Long-Term Care Insurance policy will protect your hard-earned savings and give your family the time to be family. 

You and your family will enjoy peace-of-mind as you plan for a successful future retirement. 

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

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