A new study shows that caregiver spouses of stroke survivors increase their chances of physical or mental health issues, even as late as seven years after their partner’s stroke.
The reasoning? Josefine Persson, Ph.D. candidate, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden lists prolonged strain and stress, as well as differing shared lifestyles, as two factors. Rueters reports that Persson also suggests that society needs to offer a support system to decrease the burden on caregiver spouses, as well as help promote healthy living to avoid any potential issues in the future.
Persson and her colleagues analyzed 248 stroke survivors 70 years of age and under, along with their spouses, for approximately seven years. At the same time, they followed 245 other couples, who had not had a partnered who suffered a stroke. Two-thirds of those spouses were female, with their average age being 65. When comparing both sets of couples according to a 36-item questionnaire on the quality of life; the partners with stroke survivors showed a lower score when it came to general and mental health.
The team also noted that the caregiver spouses’ scores decreased as their partners’ cognitive ability, depression symptoms or disabilities increased. Persson added that while supporting a spouse is the natural thing to do, it also naturally will have a negative impact on one’s health.
Although Karen L. Saban, Loyola University Chicago in Illinois, was not part of the study, she chimed in by noting that the chronic stress of providing care to one’s spouse can potentially increase stress inflammation and stress hormones; therefore increasing the chances of inflammatory diseases and depression. At the end of the day, Saban added, some are more vulnerable than others.
Saban also noted that resources available for caregiver spouses differ around the world, depending on the health care system and welfare of each country. As these spouses play an integral role, it is important that care is given to the caregiver; offering the idea of regular screening for depression and other signs of chronic stress.
Persson also stated that information about strokes, consequences, and daily life is also an excellent resources base that should be provided to all caregiver spouses to help them cope on a day-to-day basis. It is equally important that society understand the situation and the stress these individuals endure, taking care of their spouse who has suffered stroke, even if it is a mild one.