Hospice caregivers at increasing risk of anxiety and depression

A hospice aide is a healthcare professional who provides care within a safe and secure environment. One of the responsibilities of a hospice caregiver is to positively impact the terminally ill patient’s experience by providing care and support in response to his/her needs as well as provide support to the members of a dying loved one or of someone recently lost. Typically structured according to the needs and wishes of each patient and his or her family, hospice care focuses on all aspects of a patient’s life and well-being. As caregivers work non-stop in a hospice environment, the working hours sometimes involve overnight stays. While more than 34 million in the U.S. care for the terminally ill loved ones, only a few resources are available to help them face the daily challenges that come their way.

According to a study titled, “The Prevalence and Risks for Depression and Anxiety in Hospice Caregivers,” by the University of Missouri (MU) researchers, nearly 25 percent of caregivers were victims of moderate or severe depression and about 33 percent suffered from moderate or severe anxiety. The aim of the study was to look at the prevalence and variables that were associated with depression and anxiety among hospice caregivers, as well as the relationship between the two conditions. As per Dr. Debra Parker-Oliver, the study’s lead researcher and professor in the department of family and community medicine at the MU School of Medicine, while worry and sadness are expected outcomes of caring for a dying family member, anxiety and clinical depression should not be.

The study was published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine on Dec. 2, 2016, and was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Cancer Institute.

Young caregivers are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression

During the study, Parker-Oliver and her colleagues conducted anxiety and depression assessment with 395 family caregivers. The study researchers also recognized several risk factors associated with anxiety and depression among caregivers. Compared to their older colleagues, young caregivers were more likely to be anxious or depressed and married caregivers who cared for a family member suffering from any other disease besides cancer had higher levels of depression.

In addition, the researchers also discovered that caregivers living in the Southeast have greater anxiety than those in the Midwest. The researchers believe that instead of the entire family, health providers are more focused on the terminally ill. However, in most cases, it is fair to say that these caregivers have two patients: the caregiver and the terminally ill patient.

There is a population that is under immense stress and is not acknowledged. Parker-Oliver stresses on the need for early detection and treatment of depression and anxiety among family caregivers. She opines that the assessment tools for anxiety and depression are widely affordable and have the potential for improved clinical outcomes for family caregivers in need of additional support.

Help at hand

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one out of every six American adults will have depression at some time in their life and that every year depression affects about 16 million American adults. Moreover, depression does not discriminate and can happen to anyone, anytime, and at any age. When detected on time, depression can be treated effectively.

If you know someone battling with depression, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to get help in finding the finest treatment centers for depression near you. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our counselors to know about the best rehab centers for depression in the U.S.