Tuesday 24 April 2018

Secret toll of depression and anxiety for carers whose loved ones are suffering dementia

Tina Leonard of the Alzheimer Society Ireland and Dr Sabina Brennan from TCD at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute
Tina Leonard of the Alzheimer Society Ireland and Dr Sabina Brennan from TCD at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The hidden toll on the health and well-being of people caring for a loved one with dementia has been laid bare.

Many carers are suffering depression and anxiety as they struggle with their role, according to the first national De-Stress study by researchers in Trinity College.

"If we are serious about supporting people to live well and die in their chosen setting, then we need to invest in quality services to support both carers and those being cared for," said Trinity's Prof Sabina Brennan.

"I would also urge carers to look after themselves - it is sensible and not selfish to look after your own health and make a point of seeking social contact. Say hello to friends and say hello to socialising."

The report revealed:

*Nearly half of carers devote all of their waking time looking after their spouse, and 15pc had to give up their jobs;

*The vast majority of carers are providing most or all of the care with women in particular left with this level of responsibility looking after their husband;

*Family carers commonly suffer depression and anxiety - with one-in-three facing difficulties managing money, shopping, preparing food or keeping appointments;

*Most of the carers were themselves on prescribed medications, often suffering long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis and diabetes;

*The majority pointed to the positive aspects of their role, saying they had a greater appreciation of life and they felt needed and useful.

While for the majority there was no choice but to become a carer to a spouse, they said they took it on willingly.

Pat McLoughlin, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said family carers are providing around €807m-worth of labour annually.

Ann Twomey, of Glasheen, in Co Cork, who cared for her late husband Noel for seven years after he suffered vascular dementia, said it took two years for him to get a definite diagnosis.

"He was only 62 at the time," she said.

She gave up work as a legal secretary to care for him.

"It got to the point where you were in the office and you knew you should get home."

She recalled how one day she was working in the garden and her husband, who was sitting nearby, wandered into the house and out the front door.

She and her neighbour had to drive around to find him.

It highlighted the extent to which carers are on duty to ensure their loved one's safety.

Irish Independent

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