Stroke Caregivers & Depression

Depression was found to be common in caregivers of stroke patients

(RxWiki News) Taking care of a stroke patient can be a difficult and time-consuming task. Stroke patient caregivers need all the support they can get.

A recent study surveyed female stroke patient caregivers about their depressive symptoms.

The surveys found that the caregivers felt isolated, had trouble sleeping and along with other burdens, felt depressed a lot of the time.

"Support caregivers or reach out for support if you are one."

Karen Saban, PhD, RN, associate professor at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, led a study into depression in stroke patient’s caregivers.

For the study, researchers interviewed and surveyed 45 women caring for a family member who had experienced a stroke in the past year.

The average age of the women was 55 and the average hours per week they cared for their family member was 51.

The surveys each woman filled out covered stress, burden, social support, quality of sleep and feelings of depression.

Participants were asked for saliva samples four times during each of the two days of the study to test their cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that increases when a person is stressed.

The saliva tests showed that women with higher levels of stress also scored for higher levels of cortisol in their saliva.  These women also scored higher on the depression surveys.

Younger women scored higher for depressive symptoms. This age difference was believed to be associated with depression from loss of normal life activities and being homebound most of the day.

Women who saw their situation as stressful reported they felt a greater burden as caregiver than the other women.  They also reported experiencing bad nights of sleep and had more depressive symptoms.

Caregiver burden included financial strain, being stuck at home, difficulties with the stroke patient and having less personal time.

Dr. Saban said, “Stroke survivors can suffer significant and lasting disabilities that may require lifelong support from family and other caregivers.”

“Many families struggle to provide 24-hour care for their loved ones. This burden places the caregivers at risk for depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, which can harm quality of life and heighten their risk for other health problems.”

“This was one of the first studies to look at the unique needs of women caring for stroke survivors. Recognizing the challenges of these caregivers may help healthcare professionals better support these women.”

This study was published in the April issue of Biological Research for Nursing. No financial information was given, no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
July 26, 2012