Those who provide daily care to an adult who is mentally ill or physically impaired experience a high level of stress and emotional pressure, and are vulnerable to depression as a result. Two new studies show how caregiving influences the mental health and well being of adult caregivers. The first study addresses depression among caregivers of adults with serious mental illness. This study looked at finding a way to recognize depression in its early stages, so that the caregiver could pursue counseling and therapy, or otherwise address the developing depression, before it deepened. Preventing serious depression benefits caregivers as individuals, but also benefits the person they are caring for, says the study. If the caregiver becomes depressed, the person they are caring for will likely suffer a decreased quality of life as well.
The second study looked specifically at adult children caring for a parent recovering from stroke. Among this group, daughters were found as more prone to depression than were sons. In addition, the quality of parent-child relationship before the parent suffered a stroke had a direct impact on the likeliness of depression after the stroke. Daughters with more positive relationships with the parent were less likely to become depressed while caring for that parent.
Providing adequate mental health care to caregivers is highly important. Bearing the stress of caring for any adult who needs assistance, whether for mental or psychological reasons, is a large responsibility for anyone to bear. When this person is a family member, family strains and old tensions can make the caregiving relationship even more complicated and stressful for the caregiver. And in the case of those caring for a loved one with mental illness, social stigma surrounding mental illness in general may add an element of shame, embarrassment, or isolation to an already demanding role. Caregivers play an essential role in the health, well-being, and quality of life of those who need that care. Providing ample support, through preventive counseling, recognizing depression, and psychological therapy opportunities, will benefit the caregiver directly, and also the person under his or her care.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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