A new study conducted by Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (MNSON), Maywood, Ill, suggests that female caregivers of stroke survivors exhibit a heightened risk for developing depression and complications stemming from chronic stress. Researchers note that the study was designed to assess the unique needs of women caring for stroke survivors.

 “Many families struggle to provide 24-hour care for their loved ones. This burden places the caregivers at risk for depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances, which can harm quality of life and heighten their risk for other health problems,” explains Karen Saban, PhD, RN, APRN, CNRN, lead author, associate professor, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.

Researchers report that the study encompassed 46 female caregivers of stroke survivors. Study participants completed a demographic form and responded to open-ended written questions designed to explore their experiences as caregivers and how they coped with the changes in their lives during the first year following their loved one’s stroke. A recent news release also notes that participants provided researchers with salvia samples to test for the stress-related hormone cortisol four times throughout the day for two days.

The study’s results indicated that participants grieved the life that they once shared with the stroke survivor and highlighted the struggle participants had in coping with multiple family and work demands while trying to interact with health care providers to secure optimal care for their loved ones. The results also suggested that individuals with high symptoms of depression exhibited decreasing levels of cortisol during the day, compared to women with higher levels of cortisol and fewer symptoms of depression.

“Recognizing the challenges of these caregivers may help health care professionals better support these women,” Saban says.

The study appears in Biological Research for Nursing.

Source(s): Biological Research for Nursing, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing