Stress and depression usually result from caregiving, but one study says otherwise. Peter Vitaliano, a professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Washington, found that genes, family, and mental health history are the main influencers of stress and depression among caregivers, and not necessarily the act of providing care to another person.
The study was conducted among 1,228 female caregiving and non-caregiving twins. Results of the study show that those who didn’t experience depression before have slimmer chances of falling into it due to caregiving. Meanwhile, those who have been depressed in the past are more likely to go through it again because of caregiving.
20% of caregivers are found to be mildly to severely depressed, while only 2% to 3% of non-caregivers are found to be going through depression. Though this shows a significant difference, the depression rate should be more than 20% to safely conclude that caregiving can actually cause depression.
Meanwhile, Peter also found that the participants’ skills in coping with stress are influenced by how their parents reacted to distress such as job loss. Furthermore, the study found that social support and financial resources also influence the way a person reacts to stress.
How to Handle Caregiver Depression and Stress
Caregiving can result to depression and stress. However, the results of Peter’s study prove that there are other factors why caregivers experience these conditions. If you are a caregiver, here are ways on how you can prevent and cope with stress and depression:
- Take care of your health. This seems so basic, yet a lot of caregivers tend to neglect their wellbeing. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating the right kind of food, getting enough hours of sleep, and doing exercise.
- Participate in a support group. Though caregivers are strong, they still can’t do everything. That’s why support groups are very essential for caregivers. Through this circle, they can get caregiving advice, share stories, and gain friends.
- Spend time with friends and loved ones. It’s important for caregivers to remember that there’s life outside caregiving. Aside from boosting your social well-being by spending time with your family and friends, this also helps you unwind and regain your energy.
- Don’t forget to relax. Remember that you have personal needs to fulfill. Every once in a while, take a moment to unwind. Relaxation doesn’t necessarily mean going on vacation. Sometimes, all it takes is a few minutes of alone time.
- Keep a positive outlook. Based on the findings of Peter’s study, we can say that maintaining a positive perspective avoids, or at the very least, lessens stress and depression among the elderly. As you go through your responsibilities, find ways on how you can make it fulfilling. Though it can be difficult, it can be a rewarding experience for caregivers like you.
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