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2.3 When feelings threaten to overwhelm you

Sometimes intense feelings last for a long time and don’t seem to resolve.

Some care partners have described feeling intense sadness, while others said they felt frightened about their feelings of anger or resentment toward the person with dementia. Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about these feelings.  

Care partners, especially wives or female partners, are at increased risk of depression. Studies have found half of all women caring for a person with dementia experience depression at some point. Symptoms of depression include low mood or feeling sad or blue, constant worry or feeling stressed, crying more than usual, feeling tired a lot, having trouble sleeping (either falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early), and loss of interest in things you used to enjoy. Depression is not a sign of ‘weakness’ or personal shortcoming, it is an actual health condition that can be treated.  

For help with depression and/or anxiety: 

  • Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about how you are feeling. They may refer you for counselling. They may be able to refer you to someone who has expertise in helping people cope with caring for someone with dementia, such as a psychologist or social worker. Counselling services may be covered by your insurance or may be available through an Employee Assistance Program if you are employed. 
  • Ask your family doctor or nurse practitioner about whether or not medications for depression and/or anxiety might help you. 
  • ‘Beyond Blue’ is an Australian website. However, the resources here on managing mood may be beneficial for anyone 
  • To learn more about mental health services in Canada contact the Canadian Mental Health Association at 416-646-5557, or visit their website.
  • Although there may be intense feelings of sadness, providing care for a family member or friend can be a rewarding experience.
  • Some people have said that they valued the time spent caring for a person with dementia as it provided a sense of giving back and it was a way to demonstrate the tradition of caring and support.
  • Care giving can bring a sense of purpose or life meaning especially if the care partner feels that they are providing excellent care.
  • Finding meaning and value in the day-to-day activities of care giving can reduce stress, lower levels of depression, and increase a sense of satisfaction. 

Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner

  • Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about how you are feeling and ask for a or a referral for counselling. You can also ask about whether medications might help you.  

Review resources that can help

  • Review resources like Beyond Blue or contact the Canadian Mental Health Association at 416-646-5557, or visit their website.