Whether it is a medical professional caring for patients or a family member assisting a loved one, the role of caregiver can be extremely rewarding, and also extremely stressful. This may lead a person to experience burnout or depression.

On Nov. 13, the Dementia Caregiver Support Program of the MGH Division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine sponsored a “Lessons in Resiliency” talk for staff, patients, family and caregivers to help increase resiliency awareness as part of its “Conversations with Caregivers” series.

Darshan Mehta, MD, medical director for the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at the MGH, discussed consequences of caregiver stress and ways it can be combatted.

“Increased caregiver stress is also associated with declines in physical health – leading to premature mortality – and mental health, such as anxiety and depression,” said Mehta. “It is important to provide the necessary management tools to anyone in a caregiving position as early as possible.”

Recounting his own difficulties in managing stress as a caregiver during a time of personal tragedy, Mehta stressed that self-care and resiliency are not selfish; rather, they are essential for overall well-being, allowing caregivers to better support their patients or loved ones.

Mehta says people should make time for themselves to engage in enjoyable activities such as meditation and yoga, walking, hiking and biking. He also stressed the importance of being socially connected with friends and family, which may lessen stress.

“It is important to keep an open dialogue,” Mehta said. “Talk to providers about your own burden – including both your loved one’s provider as well as your own. The more we are able to have open and frank dialogue around this issue, the more we can do something about it.”

This article was originally published in the 11/02/18 Hotline issue.