New study combats depression in carers

February 28, 2014, University of Exeter
New study combats depression in carers
Credit: Shutterstock

Psychologists from the University of Exeter are trialling an innovative new type of support to help relatives and friends who care for stroke survivors – with studies showing that currently one in three become depressed or suffer other mental health problems.

Approximately 152,000 people suffer a stroke each year in the UK and between 2011-2012 there were almost 4,000 emergency stroke admissions across Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.

Many survivors will need care from a relative or friend, but providing this help places the carer at a greater risk of poor mental and physical health, whilst also taking away employment and social opportunities.

Carers often do not seek support because they feel guilty or are afraid the person they care for will be taken away. Other barriers include a lack of time, energy and financial restraints.

Joanne Woodford and Dr Paul Farrand, from the University of Exeter's Mood Disorders Centre, have developed the new type of support based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which will be delivered in the form of written material with additional visits or telephone calls from NHS workers known as 'Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners' who will act like personal trainers or coaches. The study has been funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust.

It is hoped that developing the support in this way and making delivery more flexible will help to overcome the difficulties carers have in accessing such support, sometimes as a consequence of the carer role they are undertaking.

The researchers are keen to recruit more relatives and carers to take part in the study, which is being trialled in Cornwall and Dorset.

Joanne Woodford, a PhD researcher from the University of Exeter, said: "People who care for loved ones who have had a stroke are three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population. There is existing support out there, but much of it does not take into account the unique difficulties faced by these carers and can therefore be hard to access. There often isn't the time or money to go to a help group and there is a great deal of fear and stigma attached, with carers afraid that by seeking help it will seem that they are unable to cope."

"We have developed this new package of support to fit into existing NHS practices and with the possibility of it being delivered over the phone as well as through visits, whichever is the preferred option for the carer. It's a very important area and we would like to hear from more carers in Cornwall and Dorset who would like to be part of the study."

CASE STUDY:

One carer from Exeter in her late 50s started to look after her partner three years ago after he suffered a stroke. She had to give up her job in order to care for him full time. She shared her story with the research group as part of a lived experience steering committee.

She said: "My partner was under 60 and it was not anything we could have anticipated. One is suddenly thrown into a different world. The first anguished weeks were a blur of medical staff and benefit forms. The following months were a litany of medical examinations lest he not really be 'eligible' for financial help.

"His physical disabilities leave him weak on the right hand side but we could cope with this. The brain damage is another matter. His emotional lability means tears are often not far away and there are no holds barred on speaking the mind, so life outside the home can be embarrassing. I have had to warn neighbours lest he offend someone. There are glimpses of our old life – the odd laugh, enjoyment of a film or TV drama, daily chores shared again, but these are sprinkled with anguish at how my hopes for the future have been crushed. I am locked into a sedentary life with a stranger."

As well as aiming to help those taking part with their depression, the information the team gain from the study will help them to better support future carers of .

Explore further: Despite trauma, stroke carers consistently regard caring experience positively

Related Stories

Despite trauma, stroke carers consistently regard caring experience positively

September 24, 2013
In the UK, family carers supporting their ill or disabled relatives save the country over £100billion a year in care costs – roughly the annual cost of the NHS. Family carers require support if they are to fulfil their ...

Researchers to investigate how satisfied caretakers of stroke survivors are with social care support

March 19, 2013
Experts from Kingston University and St George's, University of London, have launched a study to examine whether people caring for family members who have had a stroke feel the social care services designed to support them, ...

Who cares for the elderly?

October 2, 2012
Carers for the elderly are more likely to be female, aged 70, facing health risks, and under financial stress a Sydney Nursing School and Sydney Medical School study has found.

Understanding children's behaviour key to foster care support

October 15, 2013
Providing foster carers with accurate information about the behaviour of children in their care could reduce "placement drift" and encourage stronger family connections.

Almost half of cancer survivors have ill health in later years

October 11, 2011
Forty-five per cent of cancer survivors in Northern Ireland suffer from physical and mental health problems years after their treatment has finished, according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Support and Queen's University ...

New social enterprise set to lead to significant improvements in stroke rehabilitation

January 9, 2014
A pioneering programme that empowers stroke survivors to become more involved in their own rehabilitation has been officially launched as a social enterprise. Bridges Self-Management Limited is the culmination of an eight-year ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.