Dr. Macie Smith

Ask Dr. Macie

“Nerves” “Butterflies” “Nervous Stomach” are a few of the terms used to describe clinical conditions, such as depression and/or anxiety. At least this is what I hear being a country girl from North/Norway, South Carolina. As a Licensed Social Worker and Gerontologist, I tend to see family caregivers struggle with depression while trying their best to take care of their loved ones.

The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that women are more likely to be family caregivers and more likely to develop clinical depression than their male counterparts, to the tune of 20%. Because family caregiving is an isolating role, the caregiver might not be readily accessible to others. Therefore, there is less of an opportunity for others to notice depressive symptoms and make recommendations for help.

Depression alone is a very complex condition to diagnose, especially in the African American community, primarily because of stigma. The black community is afraid of what others might think; they don’t want to be labeled as “crazy” so they don’t seek help. It is because of this stigma that many African American family caregivers are experiencing difficulties successfully caring for their loved ones; in order for the caregiver to successfully care for someone else, they must provide for their own physical and mental health. So, how does one do that?

I hear this all the time, as I am sure you do too-- “take care of yourself before taking care of others.” To me, in some cases, this has become a moniker or “saying” if you will, with no real solutions to follow. So, here are some tips to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety while providing care:

• Take time away from constant care. Solicit help from a family member, church member, “play cousin”, or a paid professional to come in and sit with your loved one for a few hours while you take a break. It’s so worth it!

• Stay active. Participate in yoga. Take a walk around the house outside. The vitamin D from the sunlight and the ongoing movement will help stimulate your mind, body, and spirit.

• Get educated about your loved one’s care and condition. One of the worst things you can do is accept responsibility for caring for someone when you are not well informed about the level of care that is required. You might not be qualified to fulfill that role.

• Maintain a journal. Journaling helps to positively release anxious thoughts/feelings about what’s currently unfolding in your life.

• Meditation/Prayer/Mindfulness—helps you to be intentional about preserving your mental state.

• Seek treatment (therapy and/or medical care) for symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Medications alone might not solve the problem. You’ll need to talk to someone as well. In fact, medications for depression and/or anxiety are not highly recommended for those over the age of 65, so consult with your doctor about the benefits and the risks to taking these types of medications.

• Seek help for the following symptoms:

- Sadness lasting weeks and weeks and weeks (Depression)

- Not eating (Loss of Appetite)

- Unexplainable weight loss

- Over-eating (Gorging)

- Unexplainable weight gain

- No desire to engage with other people (Isolation)

- No desire to do the things you used to love to do (Apathy)

- Sharp mood changes (Anger)

- Not bathing/grooming (Poor Hygiene)

- Not sleeping (Insomnia)

In the event you notice the above-mentioned signs and symptoms about yourself or others, please reach out for help. As always, take care!

Dr. Smith is offering a Compassion Fatigue Retreat.  A retreat to gain tips and strategies on managing life's stressors.  It will be held on Friday, November 22, 2019 at Seawell's Conference and Catering located 1125 Rosewood Drive in Columbia.  Tickets can be purchase at www.carolinaboxoffice.com

If you have questions about healthy aging or available resources, feel free to send in your questions to info@dtconsultant.org. Or, contact us directly at 803.814.6721; our team of trained Social Workers and Dementia Specialists at Diversified Training Consultants Group can help. Tune in to ONPOINT on WACH FOX 57 every 2nd Sunday to catch Ask Dr. Macie live.

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