Caregivers for Stroke Patients Happier if Older,
Active, Patient Mentally Okay
Caregivers were happier when caring for a family
member who survived a more severe stroke
March 20, 2014 - Stroke caregivers are happier when
they continue to enjoy their own hobbies and interests, according to new
research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. It
also helps if they are older and the person they are carrying for has
less cognitive impairment, depression or memory problems.
Researchers used several questionnaires to assess
well-being after one year among 399 family members caring for a loved
one who survived a stroke. The caregivers were mostly women (69 percent)
and married to the person they were caring for (70 percent).
In a two-year follow-up, 80 of the caregivers
completed the questionnaires again, with most of their answers similar
to those at the end of one year.
Researchers found that the happiest caregivers were
• older (average age 58) and in better physical health;
• maintaining their own hobbies and activities;
• providing higher levels of assistance to stroke survivors; and
• caring for someone with less cognitive impairment, memory problems
"I was most surprised that caregivers were happier
when caring for a family member who survived a more severe stroke," said
Jill Cameron, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an associate professor
in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in
the Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science at the University of
"But when a stroke is labeled mild, expectations
are high and the issues are more subtle. That can cause more frustration
because survivors of a mild stroke still have problems."
Because stroke is a sudden event, survivors can
often be home from the hospital just days or weeks after, giving the
family caregiver very little time to prepare.
"That might be one reason older caregivers are the
most content," Cameron said. "They're more likely to be retired and less
likely to have to juggle responsibilities of a job and children along
with providing post-stroke care."
Depression, cognitive issues and memory problems
had a negative impact on the well-being of the caregiver. That may be
because health systems tend to offer more resources to help caregivers
handle physical disability than problems with thinking, memory, behavior
and mood, Cameron said.
The caregiver's attitude also impacts their
happiness. If the caregiver feels they can handle taking care of their
family member and that they will grow from the experience, and they
continue to take part in activities that interest them, they are
happier, she said.
Researchers said learning which factors led to more
content caregivers will allow the healthcare system to make adjustments
to better support stroke survivors and their families.
"If the family is doing better, that helps the
patient do better," Cameron said.
The study only included those caring for stroke
survivors who came home from the hospital after their first stroke, not
those who were sent to nursing facilities.
Co-authors are Donna E. Stewart, M.D.; David L.
Streiner, Ph.D.; Peter C. Coyte, Ph.D.; and Angela M. Cheung, M.D.,
Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
The Canadian Stroke Network, Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council and Canadian Institutes of Health Research
New Investigator Award funded the study.
For the latest heart and stroke news, Twitter at @HeartNews.
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