Caregivers need to take care

NORTHWESTERN (US) — A lack of understanding and help from friends and relatives is the biggest cause of stress for people who care for loved ones after a stroke.

A study of 58 caregivers of stroke survivors, identified 15 types of common problems that cause anxiety and depression, including  the difficulty caregivers experience in trying to sustain themselves and their families, social isolation, and changes in their relationship with the stroke survivor.

“Often families aren’t really understanding, or families might blame a caregiver for not doing more than they’re doing,” says Rosemarie King, research professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University.

“We had one caregiver in our study ask if we could send her a write-up that she could just hand to family members to explain how harassed and stressed caregivers are.”

The study suggests that these often-overlooked concerns for caregivers are a major source of stress.

The results are critical, King notes, because other studies, mostly of Alzheimer’s caregivers, show stress and depression appear to be associated with increased mortality.

Acquaintances can ease caregivers’ stress in a number of ways King says, including encouraging the use of support groups,acting as a relief, and being a sounding board.

“Caregivers face much anxiety about managing their own finances and taking care of their own emotions during such a difficult time,” King says.

“The least stressful area was patient-related problems. Not that those problems aren’t stressful, they were just not as stressful for this group of caregivers.”

More news from Northwestern University: www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/index.html