Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing. A new study lines out just how taxing it can be.
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland recently studied the prevalence of depression among more than 200 family caregivers for patients with Alzheimer’s. According to findings published in the journal Clinical Gerontologist, 61.5% experienced depressive symptoms at the time of their loved one’s diagnosis and about a third of them saw these symptoms worsen over time. However, there were certain situations in which this was more common.
Tarja Välimäki, first author and adjunct professor from the university’s Department of Nursing Science, says, “According to this study, about one third of family caregivers experience persistent depression when giving family care. It seems that the severity or progression of the memory disorder does not explain family caregivers’ symptoms, but they are rather related to individual backgrounds.”
Those most apt to see their depression intensify were women caring for a spouse who was experiencing more neuropsychiatric symptoms. The patient’s functional ability did not appear to be a factor, though. Those experiencing depressive symptoms also saw increases in the third and fifth years after diagnosis.
The team says these findings show that keeping tabs on caregivers’ health should be a part of the Alzheimer’s treatment plan.
Välimäki explains, “It is important to consider the health of the family caregiver already when looking into the situation of the individual with AD. Assessment and continuous monitoring of family caregivers’ health and well-being should be included in the treatment of memory disorders.”
This study of 226 caregivers was part of the ALSOVA study at the University of Eastern Finland, which followed up with newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients and their families over a five-year period.
The Alzheimer’s Association says depression is common among caregivers. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, becoming easily frustrated, thoughts of dying or suicide, sleep issues, and loss of interest in things you typically enjoy. They say you should contact your doctor if you suspect you may be suffering from depression. Your doctor can help refer you to treatment or counseling. It’s also important to make time for yourself, reach out if you need help with caregiving tasks, look for caregiver support groups, and learn ways that help you manage your stress.Whizzco