Caring for a dying person is challenging and all-encompassing. And, not surprisingly, that takes a toll on caregivers, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine surveyed 395 caregivers, finding that 23 percent of them experienced moderate or severe depression and one-third suffered from moderate or severe anxiety.
“While some sadness and worry are expected components of caring for a dying family member or loved one, clinical depression and anxiety shouldn’t be,” said Debra Parker-Oliver, PhD, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri, in a release. “We have a population that is under immense stress and is not being acknowledged. Basic assessment tools should be used to help increase the likelihood of early detection and treatment of depression and anxiety in family caregivers.”
The study appears in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.
The researchers found that younger caregivers were more likely to be depressed or anxious than older caregivers. Caregivers for a family member with a diagnosis other than cancer, such as Alzheimer’s disease, were more likely to experience depression, the release states.
“Health providers usually are more focused on the terminally ill patient instead of the entire family,” Parker-Oliver said. “However, in many scenarios, it is a family disease. It’s fair to say they have two patients: the caregiver and the person who is terminally ill.”