Blog post by Mike Brunt
We’ve had several blog articles recently on chronic illness. This is a personal account from a Caregiverstress.com blog reader about his mother’s depression due to chronic illness and a few tips for boosting mood and helping to reclaim your loved one’s lively spirit.
My mother has struggled with diabetes for several years. It always astounds me that no matter how responsible she is with others, she puts herself and her medical care last. We’ve had many discussions about this, but when her mood drops, it’s almost as if she’s a different person entirely.
We love to shop together, but sometimes she says she’s too exhausted to visit her favorite stores. She has even quit volunteering at church and stopped going to her book club. “It’s time for someone else to have a turn,” she explained, though that seemed like an excuse rather than an answer. Depression has always been in the back of my mind, but I figured that she has a right to feel downtrodden considering all of the medical complications she has experienced.
Chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis result in dramatic lifestyle changes, such as limited mobility and increased dependence on others. These illnesses can create limitations so that people like my mother can no longer engage in enjoyable activities or have hope about the future. With so many devastating changes, it’s easy to see why depression is one of the most common complications of chronic illness.
Occasionally, depression is actually a medication side effect. Also, depression can aggravate the symptoms of the illness itself, which spurs a negative cycle.
Early diagnosis and treatment of depression can reduce symptoms and decrease the risk of suicide. Therapy and medication are effective tools for battling depression. There is hope of significant improvement for your loved one. Here are a few tips for boosting mood and helping to reclaim your loved one’s lively spirit.
- Build or nourish a support system: Isolation can exacerbate depression. Socialization helps your loved one feel like she’s not alone and boosts self-esteem. Joining activities or engaging in community may improve mood issues.
- Maintain appropriate diet, exercise and medication:Proper nutrition and exercise can ward off many depressive symptoms. Also, check medication side effects to see if depression is listed and talk to a doctor if you feel your loved one may be affected.
- Find the right doctor: If you don’t think your loved one’s doctor is trustworthy, search for one that will listen and adapt to patients’ needs. If you’re not sure where to turn, ask friends or family for recommendations. Also, consider contacting a therapist or psychologist for an evaluation.
- Define success and goals: It’s important for your loved one to be reaching for an attainable goal. My mother couldn’t get out of the house to volunteer at the library, but instead of dwelling on what she used to be able to do, she writes encouraging letters to those who serve in her place. She also tries to read one book per week. Achieving something challenging yet realistic can bolster confidence and gives purpose.
For those like my mother who require extra support, non-medical in-home care services like those provided by the Home Instead Senior Care®network can help address chronic illness challenges and decrease the resultant depressive symptoms. In-home care specialists provide companionship, nutrition assistance, encouragement to engage in activities, daily living support, medication reminders and transportation to medical appointments.