NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – More than one in three Alzheimer’s disease caregivers has persistent symptoms of depression, according to a new study.
The findings highlight the need for better support for caregivers, who often have to give up their own lives to care for a sick relative, the researchers say.
“The demands of caregiving can be very high, and caregivers often report feeling isolated, stressed and anxious,” said lead author Dr. Jennifer Manly, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
“This study shows that depression is common among caregivers and that it doesn’t just go away over time,” Manly told Reuters Health.
She and her colleagues followed 320 caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients for two years. The caregivers were an average of 58 years old, and two-thirds were women.
At the start of the study, 37 percent of caregivers had symptoms of depression. Two years later, 34 percent still had symptoms.
Those who had the most symptoms of depression at the beginning of the study were the most likely to still have symptoms two years later, the researchers report in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Caregivers who had the most symptoms of depression were also more likely to have worse physical health, less social support and more caregiver burden – all of which can contribute to depression.
“This study really highlights the need for better support for caregivers,” Manly said.
She noted that there are many programs and services available to caregivers, but they can be hard to find.
“There needs to be more awareness of the resources that are available, and caregivers need to be better connected to these resources,” Manly said.
The study only looked at caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, but Manly said she suspects the findings would be similar for caregivers of people with other chronic illnesses.
“This is a very demanding role, and it’s important that we do everything we can to support caregivers,” she said.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most devastating neurodegenerative disorders, robbing sufferers of their memories and, eventually, their lives. Family caregivers play a vital role in providing support and care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s, but the demands of the disease can take a tremendous toll. A new study has found that one in three caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients has persistent symptoms of depression.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, surveyed 431 caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The caregivers were asked about their symptoms of depression and their caregiving duties. The findings showed that 33.7 percent of caregivers had persistent symptoms of depression, and those with more severe symptoms of depression were more likely to report higher levels of caregiving stress.
The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, and it is important to seek help if you are struggling. If you are depressed, there are treatments that can help. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and get the support you need to care for your loved one.