Stroke survivors often suffer from depression brought on by a loss of self-esteem, optimism, and control over their lives. But new research shows caregivers and spouses of stroke victims also have higher levels of depression for the same reasons.
The findings, by researchers from the University of Kentucky's College of Nursing in Lexington, are based on an analysis of 112 depressed stroke survivors and their spouses up to two months after they were discharged from the hospital.
The results showed that both patients and their spouses frequently had lasting symptoms of depression, but only the stroke survivors’ conditions were recognized and tended to by healthcare workers. What’s more, the outlook of one of the two partners tended to influence the viewpoint of the other.
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Lead researcher Misook Chung said the findings highlight the need to monitor caregivers as well as patients after a stroke, noting depression can complicate recovery and lead to a range of other health problems.
"We usually have been focused on the outcome of the stroke survivor, but we found that the self-esteem and optimism of the spouse caretaker is related to the patient's depression," said Chung. "When the spouse has a high level of self-esteem and optimism, the patient has lower levels of depression.”
She added: "This is an innovative and early analysis that considers the stroke patients and their caretaker spouses as a unit, not individually."
Researchers based their findings on an analysis of stroke patients from four hospitals in Indianapolis.
"Intervention needs to be given not only to the patient but to the caregiver spouse to maximize the patient's outcome," Chung said. "Maintaining an optimistic and positive view is very important not only for the patient but for the caregiver spouse so that quality of care for the patient can be improved."
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
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