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4 Caregiver Tips for Patients with Depression

4 Caregiver Tips for Patients with Depression

4 Caregiver Tips for Patients with Depression

September 20 2019

4 Caregiver Tips for Patients with Depression

How to Help Patients with Depression

If you or someone you know is in need of help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). This 24-hour, toll-free number has trained counselors available for you to speak with.

If someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm or suicide, call 911.

With depression, there are good days and bad days. And it can sometimes be hard to know how to help someone with depression. It can affect people from all walks of life and all ages. Depression even gets in the way of everyday life and can hurt not only the person suffering from the illness, but those around them as well.

If you are a family caregiver, you may be experiencing your own rollercoaster of emotions including helplessness, guilt and sadness. As a professional caregiver or family caregiver, it can also be frustrating at times.

But it is important to know that depression is treatable. And whether you are a professional caregiver or a family caregiver, you can play a pivotal role in helping the patient heal from the wounds of depression.

Understand Depression

1Mental illness is still surrounded by a cloud of stigma, so it is important to support those who have been diagnosed with any number of forms of mental illness, including depression. Showing an understanding of the effects of depression and empathy for the patient can help to build trust and improve positive thinking. Start by learning more about the illness itself to eliminate any judgments you may have about it and to be more authentic in your empathy.

  • Depression is serious. It can drain a person’s motivation, energy and optimism. Understand that the patient can’t just “snap out of it.”
  •  It’s not personal. Depression can make it difficult for the patient to connect on a deeper and more emotional level. A patient can also lash out in anger. Remember that this is part of the disorder and that you shouldn’t take it personally.
  • It’s not laziness. Depression can suck the energy out of you. Even thinking about doing things that may help you feel better can drain the patient.
  • You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. Depression isn’t something that just goes away over time. It is something that you have to continually take medications for or symptoms return. Also, you also can’t rescue someone who does not wish to be rescued. The patient has to want to get better. All you can do is provide support.
  •  Know the symptoms. As a professional caregiver, brush up on your knowledge of depression. As a family caregiver, talk with your loved one’s nurse, doctor or mental health provider (such as a counselor or therapist) to better understand the symptoms of depression and how to recognize when your loved one is feeling depressed or when you should be worried for them.

Offer Encouragement and Support

2It is important to provide your support no matter what. You cannot personally fix the patient’s depression, but your support and understanding do help. Sometimes people with depression may not recognize or acknowledge when they are depressed.

  • Encourage treatment. It is imperative that the patient does and continues with treatment. Help them remember to take their medications and to keep appointments.
  • Listen. Remind the patient that you want to understand how they feel and that you are ready to listen any time they need to talk. Remember that often just listening and being understanding is a powerful healing tool. Do not make judgments.
  • Offer positive reinforcement. Those who suffer from depression judge themselves harshly. Remind the patient of their positive qualities and how much they mean to you and others. It is important to know that depression is not a personal weakness, but a medical condition that can get better with treatment.
  • When you are concerned, speak gently with the patient about what you have noticed and why you are concerned.
  • Ask what you can do to help. Offer assistance in doing tasks for or with the patient.
  • Eliminate extra stress. Creating a regular routine can help a patient with depression feel more in control. Offer to help schedule a routine with the patient.
  •  Make a plan. Ask the patient or your loved one to join you for an activity, such as taking a walk, watching a movie or working on a hobby. Remember to never force the patient to do something they are not motivated to do.

Understand Suicide Risk

3Patients with depression are at an increased risk of suicide. Take all signs of suicidal behavior seriously and act immediately. Learn the warning signs of suicide. If you are a family caregiver, speak with your loved one’s nurse, doctor or trained health professional to learn these warning signs. Such warning signs include but are not limited to: stockpiling pills, withdrawing from social contact, doing risky or destructive things and giving away belongings.

  • Speak with the person about your concerns and ask if they are contemplating suicide. Know that having a plan indicates a higher likelihood of attempting suicide.
  • Seek help by calling the patient’s doctor or mental health provider.
  • Keep the patient in a safe environment and if possible, eliminate things that could be used to attempt suicide, such as firearms or other weapons and medications.
  • Call the suicide hotline number to speak with a trained counselor.In the United States, call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Call 911 if the patient is in immediate danger of self-harm. Make sure someone stays with the patient at all times.

Have Patience

4Most importantly, overcoming depression requires small steps, however it does take time and may require trying different types of treatments or medications. It is important that you have patience when dealing with someone who suffers from depression. Treatment may help some patients feel better not long after starting treatment while for others it may take longer. Also, never lash out in anger or frustration at the patient as it will only worsen the situation.


Battling depression is a daily challenge. However, by offering encouragement and support, showing empathy and being able to recognize warning signs, you will be able to help your patient or loved one have more “good days.”

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