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Caregivers of critically ill patients may develop depression: Study

06-30 | DTC Team

Caregivers of critically ill patients may develop depression: Study

Providing support to dear ones who are critically ill is not easy, and this is what makes the role of a caregiver challenging. Apart from experiencing physical stress of making the necessary medical arrangements or taking care of the emotional needs of the patient, a caregiver faces emotional turmoil which may be a cause of his/her depression during the task.

Depression in caregivers after patient’s discharge

A recent study by the University of Toronto found that depression creeps in the mind of those who take care of seriously ill patients fitted with mechanical ventilation in intensive care units (ICUs). The research, titled “One-Year Outcomes in Caregivers of Critically Ill Patients,” said that caregivers of critically ill patients are likely to suffer from depression that may continue for a period after the patient has been discharged from the hospital.

Commenting on the findings, lead author of the study Jill Cameron, a researcher at the University of Toronto, said, “Caregivers to patients who have spent at least seven days in the ICU commonly experience symptoms of depression for the full first year after ICU discharge.”

The study was conducted on 280 people looking after patients who had been kept under mechanical ventilation in ICU for a period of seven days or more. Using the data received from hospitals and the responses collated during a questionnaire, the researchers obtained the details of both patients and caregivers. It was found that on an average, caregivers were nearly 53-year-old, with 70 percent of them being women caring for their husbands.

Examination of caregivers was carried out after seven days of patients’ discharge from the ICUs. Subsequent evaluation of the caregivers was done after three, six and 12 months of the discharge of the patients from the ICUs. The researchers looked for attributes of both patients and their caregivers that could contribute to poor physical or mental health and used a standard scoring scale to evaluate the likelihood of depressive symptoms or clinical depression.

67% caregivers exhibited symptoms of depression after 1 week

The survey revealed that 67 percent caregivers exhibited increasing symptoms of depression at the end of one week, which decreased to 49 percent at the end of three months and remained at 43 percent at the end of six months and subsequently one year. Stressing on the observation that depressive symptoms usually faded with time, though it continued in 16 percent of the 280 caregivers surveyed, Cameron said, “A large portion of them improve over the year, but a sub group does not.”

While listing the factors that could have possibly triggered the onset of clinical depression, the researchers observed that the gravity of illness of the patients did not correspond with the symptoms of depression seen in caregivers. Detailed observation by the researchers brought to light that caregivers earning less than $39,000 each year were more likely to be depressed, while younger caregivers revealed that taking care of their ill relatives had an adverse impact on many of their other activities.

Based on the depressive symptoms found in younger caregivers with comparatively less social support, Cameron said, “Even in situations where the illness is fairly mild, and the disability is low, caregivers without adequate supports, or who don’t have good control over their situation may experience depression and need help.”

Lending a helping hand

The study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2016 highlighted the need to screen patients and their caregivers for possible symptoms of depression. The researchers said that the findings can go a long way in building a solid support system for caregivers and coercing the healthcare system in any country to implement methods for providing psychological support to both patients and their caregivers.

The veil of depression can engulf anyone with no bias toward any particular race, class or gender. The prolonged sadness, coupled with lingering feeling of hopelessness and emotional being of worthlessness, needs to be checked and treated early to prevent the aggravation.

If you or your loved one is suffering from depression, seek a comprehensive medical treatment for getting back to normal life. The trained representatives of Depression Treatment Helpline of Colorado can help you find the best options for depression treatment in Colorado. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 427-5668 or chat online to know about various depression treatment centers in Colorado.


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