Mental health issues for spousal carers

High levels of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety which could have an impact on their confidence, as carers was found in the largest study undertaken in Ireland to examine the health and wellbeing of people caring for spouses with dementia.

The study by researchers at Trinity College, Dublin, aimed to find out more about the carers’ lives and health, their caring role and the impact this had on their lives.

The findings included:

  • Nearly half of the carers in the study spent all of their waking time looking after their spouse, and 15% had given up their jobs in order to care for their spouse;
  • Most carers (79%) reported that they themselves provided 81% – 100% of the care for their spouse. Women more commonly provided this level of care than men;
  • Depression and anxiety were common among family carers, and around a third of participants had difficulty with at least one core caring activity, such as managing money, shopping for or preparing food or managing appointments;
  • Most of the carers took prescribed medicines. Those who had more chronic health conditions (such as arthritis, hypertension or diabetes), were more likely to have high carer burden and lower quality of life;
  • The majority of carers agreed that there were positive aspects of caring, such as appreciating life more, and feeling needed and useful. Most felt they had not had a choice in taking on the role of spousal carer, but took it on willingly.
  • Carers experienced a decline in cognitive functions (such as attention and ability to plan), over a one-year period, but this was not linked to their stress levels or a genetic susceptibility to developing Alzheimer’s Disease;
  • The report suggested that the needs of family carers in Ireland should be more thoroughly assessed and addressed as a matter of urgency.
Pat McLoughlin
Pat McLoughlin

CEO, of The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Mr.Pat McLoughlin said: “Becoming a carer for a loved one with dementia is a life-changing experience. Carers play an immensely valuable role in understanding and supporting people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Our current health and social care system depends largely on family carers who provide the main bulk of care; its estimated value to the State is in the region of €807 million per annum.

The number of people with dementia in Ireland is expected to more than double over the next 20 years, from 55,000 today to 113,000 in 2036.