It is so common for caregivers to emotionally struggle with decision making due to anxiety or depression, or a combination of both.

Sometimes people are so confused, frustrated and anxious about the ‘what if’s?’ that they are crippled by their fears.

Please share your tips for overcoming anxiety or depression. What helped you to manage these symptoms and ultimately move forward in your life?

Maybe you have always been a fairly rational person who hasn’t significantly struggled. Tell us your thoughts on how you avoided these issues.

All feedback will be helpful, whether you are a current caregiver or past caregiver.

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I am a worst case scenario person, and ask myself what’s the worst that can happen - realistically. Pros and cons. Now and later. I’m a serious overthinker, but learned to trust myself to do my homework and let go once a decision was made. Frustration and sleep deprivation made me cranky enough to defend my choices to anyone. I refused to be bullied anymore. (except by my mother)

That cathartic moment came when I acknowledged to myself that:
- I cannot be everything
- I cannot fix everything
- I cannot make her happy
- I can focus on keeping her safe

I didn’t realize how much my mother’s combative nature left me depressed and anxious until she went into care and I was still jumpy, and kept waking during the night, certain she was calling for me. That has faded over the year since she went into care.

Before the pandemic I played hockey because skating hard and slamming guys into the boards blew off my stress. I like to sing my moods. If you hear me wailing hard rock while stomping about, flipping birds, I have had a very bad day.

I spend time in the woods. I plant trees (over a thousand so far). I sit outdoors on a clear night and ponder the stars. I volunteer with dogs. In the summer I float on my back in my pool and stare up into the sky. I have shed some difficult people. I have changed my perspective and priorities, simplified, and become more reclusive. I have given myself permission to live my own life, my own way.
Helpful Answer (21)
Reply to Anabanana
NeedHelpWithMom Jan 27, 2023
Love your spirit!
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I think for me it’s reminding myself that I am not superhuman, I am doing my best and my best is enough, my life matters too, and trying to take it day by day and not think too far ahead. This part is hard as we are constantly having to plan for the future not knowing what exactly that will be. Caregivers live in a constant state of high alert. Finding ways to calm your mind and cut yourself some slack are very important. We tend to jump on every little problem, trying to fix it immediately. Try to give yourself time between “stimulus” and “response”, and train your mind to not treat every problem that comes up as an emergency. If I get a phone call with an issue the first thing I ask myself is, “Is this urgent? Does this require immediate action or can I sit with it for a while?” Yesterday my father hit the emergency services button on his RAZ memory cell phone 8 times in a half hour. I have him signed up for a service so when he does this it goes to a call center and they determine if it’s an emergency and if 911 needs to be called, but the caregiver is alerted. I got the alerts, called him to make sure he was okay, reminded him not to push the big red banner on his phone, and then silenced my phone for the other alerts that were coming in until I saw it has stopped. Deal with it, and then let it go. There is only so much you can do.

I think the most stressful part of caregiving is the feeling that your own life is slipping away from you in service to the person you are caring for. It’s a loss of control. You become emotionally, financially, socially, and often medically stressed because your life has been taken over by the person you are caring for. It’s important to remind yourself that you have a CHOICE. You are allowed to CHOOSE how much you give of yourself. This does not make you a bad person, it makes you human. You are entitled to live your life. Remind yourself of that as well as all the people telling you “what you should be doing”. Usually what they think you should be doing is sacrificing your own existence to make things easier for them. Ignore those people, and tell them immediately that their advice is not helpful. It’s the reason I will NOT uproot my life and move 3000 miles away to move in with my father. I could not live with him 24/7 and keep my sanity, my profession, or my own support system. Not going to happen. He lives alone, will never agree to leave his house, so when an event happens that triggers placement I will deal that. I love my father, but I love myself too, and I the life I have spent decades building for myself.

Our loved one’s journeys will eventually end, and we have to have lives that we have maintained to carry on with when they are gone.
Helpful Answer (16)
Reply to Caregiverstress
Beethoven13 Feb 3, 2023
great answer and information.
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When I feel depressed or anxious, I remind myself that this moment will pass. Then I focus on finding one thing to look forward to.
Caregiving certainly has been a struggle for me. I had always been resourceful and resilient, but caregiving for my demented mother 24/7/365 blew through all my inner strength in a flash. Something I learned on this forum is that caregivers don't need to do all the hands-on care. Seeing to it that mom is well taken care of is also caregiving. That realization made all the difference. It was suddenly clear that I needed to place mom and I set out to make that happen. Looking back now, I see that taking care of mom started out as an act of love, which soon became more of an obligation, which quickly turned to resentment and drudgery with no end in sight. I had naively assumed I would get help from friends and family, but that never materialized. I lost all hope. So, long story short, I arranged to place mom in AL/MC and that has given me a light at the end of the tunnel and motivation to get my life back. I had underestimated how just seeing the finish line could lift my spirits. I am grateful for the help I found here on this forum.
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Reply to Natasana
NeedHelpWithMom Jan 27, 2023
You’re speaking my language! Very nicely written.
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My mother is 98 and I started this journey of caring for her remotely and now in person 7 years ago. It has taken a huge toll on me, financially, emotionally, and physically. I find comfort in the fact that other people here understand this type of suffering, and have been through it as well.
So those are my I'll skip to what's been helpful:
1: Putting siblings and other non-contributing family members on the back burner... expectations create resentments: I spent a lot of time trying to send the perfect update emails with very little response from my siblings. Then tried to update grandkids on group messages. I found very few of my mother's 40 grandchildren were interested, and my siblings would usually not respond. I now just ask them for money, and I've stopped updating everyone. I post photos on Facebook for people who follow me and that's it. If people want to do video calls ...they have to do it on my schedule. For years, the stress of expectations of other people caring about what I was going through was eating me up inside. I finally decided to just focus on myself and my mother and ignore everyone else and that's been very helpful.
2: Al-Anon meetings online have been very helpful in helping me to detach and let go of control. If you go to the Al-Anon website there's a list of Zoom meetings. I find most of us qualify for Al-Anon in one way or another... In my case my mother was the child of an alcoholic, and those unresolved issues from her past have come out in full force at the end of her life.
3: Therapy on a short-term basis, just to deal with the, because I don't have the time to travel to a physical location.
4: Hiring outside caregivers to help though it has been very expensive. I feel guilty asking my siblings to contribute, but I get over it. I need to have other people see my mother for her sake as well as mine because I lose my temper more rapidly when I'm taking care of her constantly. Again I'm aware that's not within everybody's budget but I went to my siblings and just said they had to help pay.
5: Meditation and other apps. I resisted meditation a lot of my life because I misunderstood it. I thought it was about zoning out-- but it was more about being aware of how destructive and negative my thinking is, and that awareness would help me reset a bit during my worst moments with my mother. I like using the Calm app , and there's something called Tapping Solution which seems a little woo-woo at first but is also very helpful.
6: Reaching out to friends who understand... This is very hard because people who have not been caregivers of elderly people have no idea what an entails. It's like taking care of a 2-year-old, except it's sad. You are enmeshed in the darkness instead of hurtling towards the light.
7: Exercise ...even when I don't want to... Even if it's just walking on a treadmill at the gym it helps immensely.

For everyone going through this experience I send love and support. Today was a hard day for me. My mother was supposed to have 3 to 5 months to live When I moved out 5 months ago...and I woke up suddenly terrified that she would live another 3 to 5 years. Since I've moved out to be near her she's improved immensely. I'm sorry to say that this causes me great anxiety. Financially as well as emotionally and personally this is an incredible strain. But I've also determined that this is what I need to do in order to save myself from the guilt and remorse that I had with my father by not being there. I truly believe I'm doing the right thing for myself... so please no judgment from others. We do what we have to do for ourselves.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to wicki100
Natasana Jan 28, 2023
I get what you're saying! Especially about doing what's best for you. I respect your decisions and your no-nonsense direction to your siblings that they need to pay towards caregivers. Some people need to be told what to do! I share your terror upon realizing that mom may live many more years. Seems counterintuitive. But oh my! It looks like a dark abyss when you're the one shouldering the burden. Your are not alone.
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I'm lucky, however, I didn't realize it at the time.

1. My brother, sister and I get along and we recognize each other's faults, insecurities and strengths. Although there is jealousy and competition, we never let it get in the way of a relationship with each other. Therefore, when my brother told me that he could no longer take care of my mother by himself, I told him what I needed to move to where she was, and he took care of finding me a place to stay. I even gave him power of attorney to use my signature.

2. Once I arrived, I took over seeing my Mom every day. Unbeknownst to all of us, my brother fell ill and died 2 years later. However, during those 2 years, he supported me mentally, and he and I planned for her future. He was the favorite child so during those 2 years, I said a lot "<brother> told me to do this" and my Mom would comply. At one point, he told me that I needed to find a support group, and I did. It really, really helps to have someone from the outside, just be blunt. It hurts, however, there usually is some truth to what they are telling you. My sister is the catastrophic thinker. I spent a lot of time talking her down the cliff. That took my mind off of my brother couldn't deal with my sister's catastrophic mentality.

3. Early on, my brother and sister determined that all money decisions went through me. This had to happen because my mother would tell one person something and another person something else. There were several bills that were paid, that didn't have to be paid and now I had to follow back up to get the money back. My Mom was promising large sums of money to grandkids that she needed for her own care. This was the biggest decision we made. Now when my Mother asked for anything, they referred the request to me. It took a huge load off of them and me, since I could make simple decisions, like what prescription drugs she took, on a moment's notice. My Mom was pissed, however, the siblings and grandchildren referred all monetary decisions to me and she had to accept it. BTW, I still gave "gifts" to my brother that my mother had continuously given him all throughout his life. He didn't ask, I asked him. It wasn't prompted by my Mom and he knew.

4. Somehow, counselling found me. I don't know how. The person helped me understand how to deal the anger that I felt after my Mom's refusal to do what I asked. Everyone touts exercise. It doesn't work for me. However, what does work for me is repetitive tasks. The counselor helped me find more tools, like mindfulness.

5. As previously stated, I moved states (and culture) to be near my Mom. My Mom was experiencing some health issues that I knew could be medical. However, the people in my home state said it was normal. Talking to friends back at my "adult life" state really helped guide me to resources. After discussing with my siblings and SIL, we knew the direction we wanted to go. Therefore, we were all informed of decisions and why and could discuss future decisions with the knowledge from the past.

6. My sister, the catastrophic thinker, still has lots of contacts here in the "home" state. I relied on her and my sister-in-law to find resources, when I was too emotionally busy dealing with my Mom.

7. I have taken month long trips away from my Mom. My sister and sister-in-law are backups for care during this time.

So it takes a whole family with different strengths and weaknesses and a lot of trust from each other, to deal with the anxiety and frustrations. It doesn't stop my depression, however, I'm learning to work though it as my depression is completely within my control.

As I said, I'm lucky.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to ChoppedLiver
NeedHelpWithMom Feb 2, 2023
Beautiful posting! Thanks for sharing what helped you.

Therapy has helped many of us!
Something I learned here gave me relief. It still does, actually, when I leave after visiting my mother, and I feel like I want to collapse into a puddle of despair.

“Not everything can be fixed.”

We are so programmed to think that either we have to have the answers, or work to find the answer, or BE the answer, that when dementia or long-term illness hits, we feel like failures.

We can’t fix the situation, and so many of us have lived our lives working hard, and pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, in order to clear hurdles placed in front of us.

Then comes the aging or illness or cognitive decline of a LO, and we just want to do more, be more and just plain GET IT FIGURED OUT.

We come to this forum desperate for answers.

So, when I read that “Not everything can be fixed.”, I felt like I could finally exhale. I could proceed with making arrangements for the predicament I found my mother in, instead of circling over and over back into despair about not being able to puzzle or work or worry myself into finding a solution that would just make everything normal again.

So, thank you, whomever originally posted that answer. I’m so very grateful.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to cxmoody
NeedHelpWithMom Jan 25, 2023
This is really important for others to know. Great point!

I felt like a failure at certain times too. We weren’t failures. We were doing our best.
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an indomitable spirit.
i fell down? i get up again.

fall down 7 times, stand up 8.
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Reply to bundleofjoy
NeedHelpWithMom Jan 28, 2023
Need, I am an anxious person by nature and always was--likely always WILL be. I think what was helpful to me was
A) recognizing that fact
B) accepting it.
When my brother fell ill I think I had always seen myself, in my own mind, as the NOT anxious one, the NOT needy one, the one who COULD take control when needed, the "capable" one. Yet when my bro, always the Hansel to my Gretel through our lives, in any dark wood, fell ill I felt totally helpless. Part of my love of AC was my coming here feeling desperate and helpless and hopeless, and receiving the comfort of community. If I envy "believers" one thing, it is the sense of "community" and "support" they feel in fellow parishioners.
So I suddenly was the deer literally FROZEN in the headlights, sometimes so anxious that I wanted to shout, "Please, EVERYONE just shut up; I can't hear you; I can't separate out your voices; I can't function".
So I had to recognize it. And I had to accept it. And I had to function WITH it, because it was me. A part of me. I had to learn I was no rock of anything, and I was just one more needy person who wanted help and comfort.
Odd to say that for me this recognition of all of this was a comfort, a learning experience. BUT IT WAS. And out of all of it, I treasure that. I finally can say "Hey, I have a bit of an anxiety disorder!" I can know I will never have hope of attaining any kind of perfection, and that's OK.
I thank you for this really fascinating question. Hope it gets moved to discussion where it can have a good long life. I guess for me the answer is "I think I never WILL overcome it".
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to AlvaDeer
NeedHelpWithMom Jan 25, 2023
Alva, you have always struck me as a self assured woman!

It sort of surprises me to know that you struggled too. It kind of makes me feel more normal now! LOL 😆

You’re right. We must accept what is before us. I was in deep denial when I was caregiving.

I had such a long journey. Mom lived to be 95. Sometimes, I wonder how I didn’t completely lose my mind.
OK, so I'm pretty new here, and new to caregiving, although when I think about it, I'm really not new to it. When I was a child my mom and I lived with my grandparents and my grandma had serious health problems and I helped with her. She spent a lot of time in the hospital. She died when I was 12. I became comfortable in hospitals and ended up becoming a nurse, so then I was a professional caregiver. And I always seem to be the one people come to with advice and trust with their secrets, and I don't understand it because I'm a mess myself a lot of the time! I have lived with anxiety for a long time but didn't even realize it. I've never been one to ask for help. Now that I'm caring for my mom quite suddenly and unexpectedly, since she is fairly young and was fine a couple years ago, I am having heightened anxiety and I have realized I need help and I took the big step of starting therapy. So for me, the way I'm coping is actually acknowledging that I need help and asking for it by finding a therapist. The act of actually doing that is helping me cope because I feel like I'm doing something active to help myself.
Finding this site has helped me cope so much because everyone is so helpful. It is such a relief to talk to people who actually understand what I'm going through and the advice has been fantastic.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to STLonlychild
NeedHelpWithMom Jan 26, 2023
Good for you for going to therapy!

Therapy saved my life. It was difficult at first. It’s hard to open up and speak about painful experiences.

I had a terrific therapist who was everything that I needed in a therapist.

You really did start young if you helped care for your grandmother as a child.

I’m sure that you are a very compassionate nurse. I deeply respect and admire nurses. A good nurse is a patient’s best friend.
I have suffered from anxiety for years. My father has had mental health issues his whole life. A lot of his disease was taken out on us. I've gone to therapy, taken medication, attended al-anon and participated in various women's codependency recovery groups. I have read alot of books on family stuff, some of them have been good and some of them are junk. I am not on medication now and don't plan on taking any ...but who knows. Medication did help my brain reset. I have done all these things over the last 30 years. What helps me is not hanging out with toxic people and that does include some family members. Someone wrote about putting people on the back burner well I bought a brand new stove. I quit a book club that was so nasty and catty that I won't join one again for a long time if ever at all. I have learned that I don't have to fix everyone and rescue them from themselves. I don't even have to rescue my parents. ( thats a big one for me) This week has been a long one I spent a lot of time with my mom in the ER and at doctor for follow up appointment. Ruled out UTI. She is also refusing to get out of bed and take her meds. The ALF is calling because they have started documenting her refusals. I do have some worries but I still carried on with planting my winter/early spring vegetable garden, planning next supper club and just doing what needs to get done. 4 years ago I would have just ended up on the sofa completely wiped out. That is what is different.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to velbowpat
PoofyGoof Feb 3, 2023
Curious, what is the end game of the facility documenting refusals?
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