Carers for people with dementia can often experience depression. In this guide, we’ll highlight why that is, what symptoms to look out for, how it may affect you, and what support is available to any dementia carer experiencing depression or other mental health problems.
- Key facts
- Can being a dementia carer cause depression?
- How does dementia affect carers?
- How does depression affect caregivers?
- Support for carers with depression
Dementia carers and depression key facts:
- Recent studies have found that the prevalence of depression is even higher in dementia carers than in the general public
- A research project by Alzheimer’s Society called START, offering psychological therapy sessions to family carers, was found to be cost-effective and efficient in decreasing and preventing anxiety and depression in dementia carers
- Up to 71% of carers have been found to have poor physical or mental health
Can caring for someone with dementia cause depression?
Sadly, a correlation has been found in multiple studies between dementia caregivers and depression. The core reason for this is unknown, but what is known is that being a carer for someone with dementia can be a stressful, challenging, and isolating role to take on.
There are an estimated 540,000 dementia carers in the UK, and the vast majority of these are family members or friends that are taking care of their loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia. Seeing the effects of dementia on your loved one can be devastating, and being their main caregiver can be extremely emotionally taxing, leading many carers to become depressed.
How does dementia affect carers?
Dementia can have a huge impact on the lives of the person living with the condition, but can be just as devastating for carers and loved ones also experiencing it.
People with dementia can experience huge behaviour changes, confusion, memory loss, and more; and carers are often juggling the support this person needs with their own life. As a result, this means long hours providing care and cramming in chores and other basic needs where they can. Often, this means that a carer’s well-being often drops to the bottom of the list – which is why carers are so much more likely to experience depression.
How does depression affect caregivers?
Common symptoms of depression can include:
- Mood changes, such as feeling upset, down, and tearful
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Feeling isolated and unable to reach out
- No longer finding joy in things you once enjoyed
- Avoiding social situations
- Feeling tired all the time
- Self-harming behaviours
Of course, when your own well-being is suffering, this can in turn impact your ability to care for someone else. That’s why it’s so crucial that you put your own mental health first and seek help if you are experiencing the symptoms of depression.
Support for dementia carers with depression
If you think you may be experiencing depression as a dementia carer, know that there is support available to you. You can get help in the following ways.
Visit your GP
Discuss how you are feeling with your GP, and they’ll be able to refer you to the relevant support services. This may include:
- Getting a Carer’s Assessment to assess what additional support you might be able to get
- Finding out about carer’s support groups near you
- A referral to counselling
- Prescribing you with antidepressant medication
NHS Therapy Services
If you live in England and are over 18, you can access NHS psychological therapies to help treat dementia. You can either be referred by your GP, or you can refer yourself directly.
These services can include talking therapies (CBT, guided self-help), or other forms of support for dealing with anxiety and depression.
Dementia carer support groups
Alongside seeking support from your GP, you might consider joining a dementia caregiver support group, either locally to you or online.
These support groups can provide access to healthcare professionals and other carers in similar circumstances to you. Sometimes, have a network of support that you can open up to can be a huge help if you are feeling alone in your role as a carer.