Long-term caregiving linked to more depression in older adults, report says
February 28, 12:30 PM By Amanda Keim-Morrison
Both long-term caregiving and giving up caregiving are associated with a greater risk of depression for older adults, and these caregivers need extra support, concludes a report out of Great Britain.
There are close to 1.3 million caregivers ages 65 and older in the United Kingdom, according to "The emotional wellbeing of older carers" report from the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK). The report was based on data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which includes information on more than 6,000 people in the United Kingdom ages 60 and older. In the U.S., 39 percent of adults reported they were caregivers in 2013, and 30 percent of those caregivers were 65 or older, a Pew Research Survey found.
While starting to be a caregiver wasn't associated with more depression, long-term caregiving arrangements increased the risk depression for both men and women, likely due to stress, the ILC-UK study said.
Women who transitioned out of being a caregiver, either because the person being cared for moved into a residential facility or died, were 54 percent more likely to report symptoms of depression over the following two years. There was some evidence men were more likely to report similar symptoms, although that data wasn't conclusive.
The Caregiver Alliance says depression isn't uncommon among caregivers, especially when they sacrifice their own physical or mental needs as they provide care. The group urges caregivers to recognize early signs of depression in themselves, and has recommendations for dealing with depression and keeping it at bay.
Caring.com has a quiz to help you recognize whether you're heading toward caregiver burnout.
Being there for caregivers
Older people who are long-term caregivers should be given extra support both while they're caring for someone else and when that caregiving arrangement stops, the report concludes.
"Carers give so much of their time to helping someone else and, quite rightly, the focus is often on the person who is in need of care," the ILC-UK's Helen Creighton said in a press release. "However, when their caregiving responsibilities end it is essential carers are not just abandoned. Local authorities need to do more to help ex-carers make connections in their community and may want to consider setting up forums where ex-carers can come together to support one another."
In particular, older caregivers need more opportunities to take breaks while someone else watches the person they're caring for. It would be especially helpful if the same person could frequently fill in in order to build up trust, and if older caregivers can get together in groups to talk and exercise together.
Once caregiving arrangements end, caregivers should get easy access and transportation to visiting their loved ones in residential homes. If the person they cared for has died, caregivers could benefit from bereavement groups and programs designed specifically for caregivers.
On a more personal level, the Family Caregiver Alliance has tips for helping a senior parent who has become a widow.