Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Caregiving can be very stressful and demanding. In the case of a healthy spouse or a child living with the care recipient at home, caregiving can be a 24 hour, 7 day a week commitment. But even for the caregiver who is not living in the home, looking after a loved-one or friend can consume all of the caregiver's free time.
Surveys and studies consistently show that depression is a major problem with full-time family caregivers. This is typically brought on by stress and fatigue as well as social isolation from family and friends. If allowed to go on too long, the caregiver will break down and may end up needing long-term care as well.
A typical pattern may unfold as follows:
1 to 18 months--the caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support.
20 to 36 months--the caregiver is taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless.
38 to 50 months--Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the caregiver's physical health is beginning to deteriorate. Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help.
It is often at this stage that family or friends intercede and find other solutions for care. This may include respite care, hiring home health aides or putting the disabled in a facility. Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long-term care as well.
Since most people go into informal caregiving without training or counseling they often aren't aware of the possible outcome described above. It is therefore extremely important to receive counseling and to formulate a plan of action prior to making a caregiving commitment.