Stroke survivor caregiving takes a toll

July 22, 2012 at 1:44 AM
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CHICAGO, July 22 (UPI) -- Stroke, a leading cause of long-term disability, also takes a toll on stroke caregivers who are stressed and at risk of depression, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Karen Saban, an associate professor at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing in the Chicago area, said the National Family Caregiver Association reported up to 80 percent of stroke survivors are cared for by family members who help them manage paralysis, personality changes, urinary incontinence and speech difficulties.

"Stroke survivors can suffer significant and lasting disabilities that may require lifelong support from family and other caregivers," Saban said in a statement. "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 study involved 45 women -- median age 55.8 -- who cared for a family member who had experienced a stroke in the past year. The average hours of care they provided was 50.7 hours per week. They provided saliva samples to test for the stress-related hormone cortisol four times throughout the day for two days.

The study, published in the journal Biological Research for Nursing, found the women had high levels of perceived stress and caregiver burden and poor quality of sleep. The study also found that the burden of caring for a stroke victim increased the risk of depressive symptoms and stress, Saban said.

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