According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is one of the top causes of long-term disability. When people are lucky enough to survive a stroke, they need help looking after themselves.
The National Family Caregiver Association reports that family members care for 80% of stroke survivors. These family members take on a difficult responsibility by helping them manage their physical and cognitive dysfunction, which may include personality changes, paralysis, urinary incontinence, and speech difficulties.
Karen Saban, Ph.D., RN, APRN, CNRN, lead author and associate professor at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Neihoff School of Nursing, said:
"Stroke survivors can suffer significant and lasting disabilities that may require lifelong support from family and other caregivers. Many families struggle to provide 24-hour care for their loved ones. This burden places the caregivers at risk for depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances, which can harm quality of life and heighten their risk for other health problems."
The researchers examined 45 women who were currently caring for a member in their family who had suffered from a stroke the previous year. These women were recruited from social networking sites, support groups, and two outpatient clinics. Participants had a median age of 55.8 while providing care 50.7 averaged hours per work.
Each woman was given a survey to complete regarding perceived stress, caregiver burden, quality of sleep, depressive symptoms, and social support. Researchers also tested for cortisol, the stress-related hormone, by taking a saliva samples from the women 4 times throughout the day for 2 days.
Results showed that participants had high levels of caregiver burden and perceived stress and poor quality of sleep. The team found that the risk of developing stress and depressive symptoms were increased because of the burden of caring for a stroke victim.
Below are some of the reasons caregivers might become depressive:
- Home confinement
- Financial strain
- Changes in the relationship with the care recipient
- Having little personal time
- Noncompliance of the stroke survivor
- Demands of caring for the stroke victim
Another study by Loyola researchers, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, found that female caregivers of stroke survivors are saddened by memories they use to share with the stroke survivor while still having to struggle with work and family demands. These caregivers want the best for their loved ones and try to interact as well as possible with health-care providers to attain the best possible care.
"This was one of the first studies to look at the unique needs of women caring for stroke survivors. Recognizing the challenges of these caregivers may help health-care professionals better support these women."
Written by Sarah Glynn