Depression: It's How You See Yourself That Counts
It's not what you do, it's how you feel about what you do.
This applies to people who care for relatives with dementia as much as it does
anybody else. Researchers report that up to three-fourths of caregivers for
patients with dementia develop serious depression. But a recent study led by
psychologists from Kent State University in Ohio suggests that the way
caregivers feel about their caregiving has a lot to do with whether or not they
Researchers interviewed 188 caregivers over a period of
one year. They asked about the relative's behavior problems, like wandering or
aggression. They also asked about the caregiver's feelings, particularly the
feeling of being trapped in the caregiver role and of being overloaded or
"burned out." The researchers wanted to see if caregivers' feelings of stress
are related to their risk for developing depression.
At any given time,
about one-third of the caregivers reported depressive symptoms. About 47 percent
of the caregivers never reported symptoms of depression, about 21 percent were
consistently depressed, and the other 32 percent sometimes reported depressive
symptoms and sometimes didn't.
Those who were consistently depressed
tended to have lower household incomes and less education than the other
caregivers. Also, those caring for relatives with fewer behavior problems were
less likely to be depressed, as were those who felt less trapped and overloaded.
Caregivers who felt trapped in their roles were particularly likely to
report depression. The researchers suggest that caregivers need help coping with
feelings of being trapped and overloaded, even more than they need help in
caring for their relatives. These subjective feelings are greater risk factors
for depression than the actual amount of care a relative requires.
findings emphasize that those caring for relatives with dementia or other
chronic conditions need emotional support and coping techniques to help them
maintain their own health and well-being.