Oct 14, 2015

10 Signs of Caregiver Stress and Depression, When to Get Professional Help

Jenny is a depressed, stressed out Alzheimer’s caregiver who has tried two different support groups and even formal group therapy.

10 Signs of Caregiver Stress and Depression, When to Get Professional Help

She has support from a few close friends and some members of her family. She even tried pastoral counseling from her minister. But nothing has helped.

She feels more stressed and more depressed with each passing day. It’s significantly interfering with her daily life activities.

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By Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Maybe it’s time for Jenny to see a therapist.

How I Use the Term “Therapist. In this article I use the term “therapist” to denote any one of many types of healthcare professionals who provide individual counseling.

Some Indications You Might Benefit From Seeing a Therapist: There are several situations in which people can benefit from therapy.

Two important ones for Alzheimer’s caregivers are:
  1. When you feel overwhelmed by your stress
  2. When you are seriously depressed
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Stress: The Alzheimer’s Association lists the following as symptoms of caregiver stress:
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Social withdrawal
  4. Anxiety
  5. Depression
  6. Exhaustion
  7. Sleeplessness
  8. Irritability
  9. Lack of concentration
  10. Health problems
See the article on the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information about stress.

Depression: Some of the symptoms of depression are the same as those for stress. The Alzheimer’s Association lists the following symptoms of depression:
  1. Becoming easily agitated or frustrated
  2. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  3. Feelings of hopelessness
  4. Thought of death, dying or suicide
  5. Disturbed sleep
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  8. Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  9. Changes in appetite or weight
  10. Physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain.
See the article on the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information about depression.

Come Back Early Today A Memoir of Alzheimer's Care
Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy

Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

She is also the co-author (with Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN) of the forthcoming book, “Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s: New Hope for Caregivers.’


Everyone knows that Alzheimer’s caregiving can be stressful and depressing.

Virtually EVERY caregiver has more than one of the above symptoms. So how do you know if you could benefit from professional help? I would suggest you consider it whenever you have one or more of the above symptoms, they are significantly interfering with your daily life, and nothing else has helped (such as a support group, group therapy, respite care, pastoral counseling, etc.)

Reasons People May Refuse to See a Therapist: According to an article, Counseling and Alzheimer’s Disease, on the Cleveland Clinic website, people often decline to get professional help because it would make them feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed. However, the article states that “By deciding to get help, you have made a choice to feel better and to improve your life.”

Types of Therapists: Many types of health care professionals serve as therapists. The two most common are psychologists and social workers. Some psychiatrists provide therapy as well. Psychiatrists can also prescribe medications, such as antidepressants (if needed); psychologists and social workers cannot. Your primary care provider could also prescribe an antidepressant for you if deemed appropriate. You might decide to see a psychiatrist for both therapy and medication or you might split up the tasks, seeing a psychologist or social worker for therapy and a psychiatrist or primary care provider for medication.

How to Find a Therapist:
  1. You can get a referral from a friend, relative, your primary care provider or your local mental health clinic.
  2. There are various websites that list therapists, along with descriptions of each one. One site is http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/ (Google “Find a Therapist” to find other websites).
For more detailed advice, see an article on Psych Central for 10 ways to find a good therapist.

Some Examples of Specific Ways a Therapist Can Help You: Therapists can help people in many ways. Three important ones for Alzheimer’s caregivers are:
  1. Help you overcome your denial and come to terms with your situation
  2. Help you manage your depression better (if you are depressed)
  3. Help you improve your stress management techniques
How to Start out: It’s important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable. For this reason it’s advisable to interview two or three in order to decide which might be best for you. Most therapists will talk to you on the phone free of charge for 20 minutes or so for this purpose.

Or you may elect to see the therapist in person for an hour-long “get acquainted” meeting. You will probably be charged for this visit. Remember that if at any time you do not feel comfortable with your choice you can always change to a different professional.

You can start out by discussing your problems with the therapist and finding out what he or she recommends in terms of the specific type of therapy and how long it may take. Talk to the therapist about your expectations from the therapy and discuss whether he or she thinks they are realistic. The therapist might recommend brief, focused therapy or therapy with ongoing support. The latter may be especially helpful if you can afford it.

Has anyone tried therapy and benefitted from it? Care to share your experience with us?

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