Caregivers should be screened for depression
Caregivers are at risk of depression. The problem with being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s is that it is unremitting. Day in, day out, and often for years, you are needed to provide support, give varying levels of help with activities of daily living, and make the life of the person you care for as fulfilling as possible. There are good times of course but anxiety, isolation, the pressures and fears of supporting someone with Alzheimer’s can take its toll. Depression is common and it is estimated that between 28% and 55% of caregivers have symptoms.
There appear to be a number of factors that will influence the likelihood of depression. In a recent study from Utah State University, Dr. Piercy and her colleagues found fewer depressive symptoms in caregivers with higher levels of education, larger social support networks and those who had fewer health problems. They also found that caregivers who used problem-focused coping with dementia sufferers, and who had fewer behavioral disturbances to deal with, were less at risk of depression.
I suppose this information does seem logical. Caregivers who know more about the illness their loved one has is empowering. For example, once we understand the way in which brain damage occurs in Alzheimer’s we can see why their behavior and control of emotion changes so profoundly over time. Our ability to cope with acts of uncooperative behavior improves.
Caregiver health also makes a big difference in our ability to cope with our caregiving role. If we are healthy we cope better with the physical and mental demands. Support from other family members helps lessen our isolation, their input can help us cope with sleep deprivation, gives us an opportunity to get out and have time for ourselves. That was one of the things that kept me going.
Caregiving does have a big impact on our financial health and our quality of life. Money gives us more options to employ people who can help us provide care and use facilities such as community day care facilities and in patient respite care when we need a break or a holiday.
Doctors have a big role in identifying caregivers who are more at risk of depression and for signs of depression. They play a crucial role in identifying potential problems in the early stages. The Utah study highlights the need for interventions such as targeting individuals with small support networks, emotion-focused coping styles rather than problem-focused, who have poorer health, low quality of life, and those caring for persons with higher numbers of behavioral problems need development and testing.
More information on Caregiver Depression:
10 self care tips for depressed caregivers http://www.healthcentral.com/alzheimers/c/57548/152913/10-caregivers?ic=506011
Kathleen W. Piercy K.W.,et al. Predictors of Dementia Caregiver Depressive Symptoms in a Population: The Cache County Dementia Progression Study. 2012.The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60, P287–P295