Last week, I wrote about the often unrecognized occurrence of depression in an individual with chronic illness. This week, I introduce you to the all too silent crisis of caregiver depression.
Not everyone who provides care will experience depression. However, there is evidence to suggest that taking care of another person can take a heavy toll on the caregiver. In fact, researchers at the Nation Family Caregivers Association have found that 60 percent of caregivers report depression symptoms.
There are four studies that are very interesting that I would like to share with you.
- In the first study, researchers looked at what were the predictors of caregiver depression among family caregivers of adults with cognitive impairment. They found three things that predicted caregiver depression:
- the initial levels of depression among the caregivers
- the physical condition of the caregiver
- whether or not the caregiver had in-home respite assistance.
- The researchers in the second study examined how caring for a child with food allergies impacted family caregivers (food allergies are about as close as it gets to acid reflux in children). The researchers found that parents of the children with food allergies had more disruptions and limitations in their family activities and more stress and worry compared to parents in the normal U.S. population.
- The third study looked at caregivers of Alzheimer's patients. It has already been established that caring for someone with Alzheimer's can place enormous demands on a caregiver, so the purpose of this study was to determine if family therapy helped to relieve the distress and depression often found among the caregivers. What the researchers found was that caregivers who received therapy interventions, including information technology, experienced a significant decrease in their depressive symptoms.
- In the fourth study, the researchers explored the relation between caregiver sleep and depression (another close link to acid reflux). What they found was that among the caregivers in the study, almost 95% expressed severe sleep problems, and more than half of them were experiencing depressive symptoms at a level that would suggest risk for clinical depression.
I hope these four studies illustrate a few important ideas related to caregiving. It is extremely important for the caregiver to have the best physical and mental health he or she can, including adequate sleep. Respite assistance and therapeutic interventions can make a positive difference for a caregiver at risk.
In Part III of the SharePost, I will round out this series with a report about the positive aspects of caregiving.