Near half of the carers of people suffering from dementia experience significant levels of psychological distress, together with high levels of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, hostility, interpersonal sensitivity and paranoid thoughts, among other symptoms.
This is the conclusion of a study published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, authored by Wilson Abreu and Carlos Sequeira, researchers of the NursID group of CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research, and professors at the Nursing School of Porto – ESEP by its acronym in Portuguese.
In the studied population, 108 persons with dementia and their family carers living in Porto, a significant correlation was observed between the psychological distress symptoms showed by the carers, who were 60.7 years-old on average, and the level of dependency of the patients in their care. 85% of those patients were women, 55% suffered from severe dementia, and 46% were severely or totally dependent.
According to the authors, workload, lack of knowledge about the disease and fear of its inevitable progression, are some of the elements that can explain the reported symptoms, namely the so-called phobic anxiety.
“The carers feel that they were left alone, without any help. Professionals have to discuss further actions and provide information about services available and the progression of the disease. It is essential that health systems are able to deliver integrated and palliative care, namely home-care support.”, state the researchers.
The study proposes that nurses play an important role in this process, through the development and implementation of care services for people with severe dementia and support to their carers, including psychoeducational programmes and psychosocial interventions that focus on cognition, stress management, communication, spirituality, and comfort.
This type of programme in the field of Mental Health and Psychiatry should have the power to relieve carers’ psychological distress, having positive effects in their health, in their ability to take care and in the quality of the care they provide to patients with dementia they are responsible for.
Dementia is considered to be a progressive complex syndrome mostly associated with elderly populations, ultimately leading to death. It is characterized by a disturbance of multiple functions, including memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, learning, capacity, language, and judgment. It is estimated that more than 47 million people live with dementia, and this number is expected to increase to 75 million in 2030 and 135 million in 2050.