Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Caregivers May Help Depressed Parkinson’s Patients

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative neurological condition that affects motor function. A large portion of people who have PD also struggle with psychological problems, including sleep impairment, psychotic episodes, learning deficiencies, anxiety, and even depression, with depression being the most common. The caregivers of individuals with PD are also at increased risk for emotional distress and psychological problems. Very little research has focused on how to reduce the symptoms of depression in PD (dPD). To address this obvious gap, Roseanne D. Dobkin of the Department of Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School recently conducted a study to measure the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on individuals with dPD.

Dobkin examined 80 clients who had dPD and enrolled them, along with their caretakers, into the study that compared traditional clinical treatment and monitoring with CBT over 10 weeks. She found that the inclusion of the caretakers had a strikingly positive effect on both the clients with dPD and the caregivers. By learning how to change attitudes and behaviors, caregivers were more sympathetic to the clients. Their stress was reduced, and in turn, the stress, anxiety, and depression in the PD clients was reduced as well. The findings also showed increase in executive functioning in the caretakers as a result of the CBT.

The study revealed that the clients with dPD and their caretakers benefited greatly from the work they did outside of therapy as well. For instance, the caregivers and clients were instructed to complete homework relating to their treatment, such as practicing specific behaviors and becoming aware of their thought patterns. This exercise allowed clients, both the pDP clients and caretakers, to fully maximize the skills they acquired while in session. Dobkin believes that this study provides evidence that CBT is a viable option for treating depression in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, as well as those who care for them.

Dobkin, R. D., Rubino, J. T., Allen, L. A., Friedman, J., Gara, M. A., Mark, M. H., et al. (2012). Predictors of treatment response to cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027695

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  • Judd

    March 20th, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Oh I really do like this thought- who has even thought to offer care for the caregiver? This is the person in the patient’s life who is often the most tired and stressed out, but they are so often overlooked and ignored. Think about how much better and how much better prepared they could be to handle the day to day situations that they are sure to face if they are equipped with more positive ways to deal with all that this role presents.

  • hanson

    March 20th, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    I have watched my own mom go through the stresses of being a caregiver to a family member with parkinson’s that just did not respond to treatment, and man was that ever tough for her. To see someone that you care about spo much be so lost and seemingly nothing could help, I watched as her own frustration grew along with her anger. I wish that someone had told her that she should get a little help for herself too, that that is not something that only the patient could benefit from. But I think that some of these caregivers like my mom would think that this was being selfish, that the attention should go toward the patient and that they can take care of their own selves. I think that sometimes when you are in those shoes you lose sight of the fact that you can use a little bit of help too, and that when you get that it will help you be available to give even more for those you are caring for.

  • Laura P

    March 21st, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    Any time that you are able to offer something positive for the one who is taking care of another, you are in turn offering that to the patient as well.

    It is not an easy job to take care of another person like this as it takes so muh time and compassion. By teaching those in the role of caregiver to take better care of themselves, you are passing that extra care and attention along to another.

    It begins a cycle of care that is positve and not quite such the burden that it can come to feel like.

  • Sharon

    March 21st, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    But why should patients and caretakers be enrolled together?Is the caretaker present when the patient is receiving his treatment?Because there needs are different and obviously treatments would be different too.

  • CandacE

    March 22nd, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    wonder if any schools that provide training for CNAs or programs like that would be willing to incorporate some of this into their curriculum- might be a little proactive

  • Christine Powell

    March 22nd, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    I had no idea that Parkinson’s could cause so many of the other symptoms like psychosis and sleep disorders! I thought that it was only about the tremors that we see so many patients exhibit.

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