It’s not uncommon for depression to follow a stroke, in both the stroke survivor and the caregiving partner. A recent study on the factors that influence depression after a stroke finds that optimism and self-esteem in the caregiver can actually help combat the patient’s depression.
The study, presented during the annual meeting of the International Stroke Conference, followed 112 depressed survivors and their partners for up to two months. It differed from past studies because it looked at the survivor and caregiver as a team, rather than as individuals.
“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,” says study author Misook Chung, Ph.D., R.N., and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Nursing. “When the spouse has a high level of self-esteem and optimism, the patient has lower levels of depression,” Chung says.
Because the spouse or partner plays such a vital role in the stroke victim’s recovery, it’s important that he or she get intervention and make emotional health a priority.
Kim Feingold, clinical psychologist and director of cardiac behavioral medicine at Northwestern’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, says she counsels caregivers all the time to be aware of their own needs and not just those of their partner.
“Caregiver burden is something that we know a lot about,” she says. “The chronic stress of caregiving can impact physical and mental health.”
Tips to help prevent depression in stroke survivors and their caregivers during recovery.
- Take care of yourself
- Take breaks
- Help the patient identify things that are within his or her control
- Acknowledge the loss
- Stay active and social
If you are struggling with depression as a caregiver, contact Micheline Sommers, LMSW at Rochester Counseling Associates, for affordable and confidential counseling.