A service often underutilized by those suffering from depression is the Consumer Directed Personal Care Services, or PCS. This Medicaid program exists to help individuals suffering from chronic illnesses or physical disabilities which interfere with their ability to perform daily home activities. A PCS plan allows users, family members or guardians to select their own home care aide and determine the level of care the aide will provide. A PCS aide can be an integral part of your plan to counteract the adverse effects of depression for yourself or a loved one.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Recent global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate-related disasters have caused depression rates to spike to an all-time high. Many people afflicted with depression may be unaware of it; if they have not received a clinical diagnosis, they may not recognize their symptoms as stemming from depression. While the most typical signs of depression are feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or worthlessness, there are many other symptoms that could indicate that you or a loved one is suffering from this condition. Other common signs include:
· Appearing withdrawn
· Having difficulty sleeping
· Experiencing an inexplicable sluggishness or lack of energy
· Overeating or losing appetite
· Feeling anxious
· Experiencing cognitive discrepancies
· Experiencing suicidal thoughts
· Feeling unexplained aches and pains
Depression comes in many forms, and individual sufferers may experience different symptoms with greater or lesser intensity. Understanding the types of depression may allow you to recognize them in yourself or others. If you or someone you know is experiencing any ongoing symptoms of depression, be sure to consult your doctor or other trained mental health professional.
Types of Depression
Like many illnesses, depression manifests in different ways depending on the root causes. The DSM-V recognizes several types of depression, each typified by a distinct set of features:
· Anxious distress: This form of depression is characterized by feeling a loss of control over your life.
· Melancholic features: The major feature of this form of depression is typified by a severe inability to experience pleasure.
· Mixed features: This form presents as a mixture of manic and depressive states.
· Atypical features: In atypical depression, the sufferer’s mood periodically improves, generally when experiencing enjoyable or positive events.
· Psychotic features: People with psychotic depression experience hallucinations, paranoia, and other breaks from reality.
· Catatonia: This feature is characterized by unusual movements ranging from restlessness to a total inability to speak or move.
· Peripartum onset: Pregnant individuals may suffer from depression during or after their pregnancy.
· Seasonal onset: The changing seasons can often trigger depression.
Based on the type of depression being experienced, a doctor or mental health professional will recommend specific treatment plans. Creating treatment goals for yourself or a loved one is essential to successful completion of the treatment plan.
Treatment Goals for Depression
Treatment plans can and should be tailored to the individual based on predetermined treatment goals. You should work with your medical provider to establish clear goals before determining your treatment plan. Common treatment goals include:
· Reducing symptoms
· Improving the ability to function at home and work
· Reducing the risk of suicide or self-harm
· Preventing depression from returning
Once you have determined a treatment goal, you and your doctor can establish the best treatment plan to help you achieve it. Hiring a PCS aide can be an important component of your treatment plan.
Treatment Plans for Depression
A wide range of treatments are available to those experiencing depression. Your medical professional may recommend a mix of strategies and tools to aid recovery. A PCS aide can provide assistance no matter what treatment plan is chosen.
· Medications: Depression and brain chemistry are deeply intertwined – external causes of depression may alter the brain, and chemical imbalances within the brain may trigger depression. Your medical professional may prescribe medication to stabilize brain function. A PCS aide can help you to keep track of your medications, refill prescriptions and take them on time.
· Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy allows a person to discuss their feelings and experiences with a licensed mental health professional. Psychotherapy sessions can help those suffering from depression to control or alleviate symptoms and function better in everyday life. While a PCS aide isn’t a replacement for professional therapy, they can help by providing daily emotional support and advice.
· Active Lifestyle: Depression can often be managed or mitigated by increasing physical activity. Exercise improves mood, fitness, and physical health. A PCS aide can help you stick to your exercise routine by providing motivation or accountability.
Regardless of which treatment plan you choose, you must consult with your doctor on a weekly or biweekly basis. Frequent communication enables your doctor to monitor progress and determine if the treatment plan is succeeding or needs alteration.
Tips for Caring for Someone with Depression
Friends, family members or aides are a vital source of support for those suffering from depression. If you’re supporting someone with depression, you should be mindful of the following tips:
· Interact with the patient in a slow-paced, low, and firm tone: An emotionally charged or loud tone of voice can create unnecessary tension or distress, and can hamper effective communication.
· Encourage them to verbalize their feelings: Try to get the patient to talk about their worries or other emotions by using broad, leading statements or open-ended questions. This non-confrontational approach allows patients to voice their thoughts in a way that matches their comfort level.
· Maintain a therapeutic distance: Though this can be difficult for very empathetic people, or for those who are very close to the patient, it’s important to avoid allowing the patient’s negative emotions to affect your own. Protecting your own mental health is important, too.
· Be patient and show empathy: Showing compassion and patience will go a long way towards maintaining or establishing a bond of trust between you and the patient. This in turn will improve the patient’s chances of recovery.
· Encourage good personal hygiene: Encourage the patient to recognize that caring for their mental health often starts when they also care for their body. Bathing regularly and maintaining dental hygiene not only boosts mood and self-esteem, but helps the patient stay physically healthy.
· Respond calmly to displays of irritability or anger: If you react negatively to a patient’s negative emotions, this will only escalate the situation or cause the patient to withdraw. You should do your best to remain calm and supportive no matter what behavior the patient is exhibiting.
· Use behavior modification techniques: Employing positive or negative feedback techniques helps reinforce positive behaviors in patients, and helps eliminate negative ones. Find ways to reward positive behavior and set firm boundaries to establish what kind of behavior is unacceptable.
· Praise strengths and accomplishments: Everyone feels better when they receive praise, but for those suffering from depression, compliments and acknowledgements can have profound positive impacts. Even small, day-to-day achievements should be acknowledged.
· Be mindful of spiritual needs: A well-rounded treatment plan addresses all aspects of an individual’s life. For many patients, this includes spirituality. While you should never push any form of spirituality onto a patient, allowing them space to discuss their own beliefs and helping them to follow their own spiritual practices can contribute to their overall wellbeing.
· Help them feel that life is worth living: One of the most challenging and confounding aspects of depression is that the sufferer may not have a strong desire to get better; they may simply not see the point in doing so. Try to find ways to bring pleasure back into the patient’s life. Talking to them about what they think would make life worthwhile can help determine goals and improve motivation for the patient.
While depression is a serious and often severely debilitating illness, with the right support from friends, family, and professionals, sufferers often make a full recovery. If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, you should consider applying for a PCS aide to make the road to recovery smoother and shorter.