Monday, October 2, 2017

Caregivers of Individuals With Schizophrenia Experience High Levels of Distress, Study Finds

Psychological distress among family or friends who provide unpaid support to people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is much higher than the general population, reports a study published today in Psychiatric Services in Advance

The study, by Debra Lerner, Ph.D., of Tufts University and colleagues, identified several variables that seem to have the greatest impact on the level of distress seen in caregivers. “Specifically, the amount of time and effort devoted to caregiving … contributed to distress, as did two additional indicators of demand: risk of medication discontinuation and concern about medication effectiveness,” Lerner and colleagues wrote. “These results suggest that tasks related to managing treatment and symptoms are significant stressors.”

The findings were based on the online questionnaire responses of 1,142 participants, 21 years or older, who identified as informal, unpaid caregivers to friends or relatives with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or both. The survey assessed demands placed on caregivers, their coping resources and support systems, and cognitive appraisals of caregiving. The survey also included the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), which is a validated global measure of psychological distress. Average distress among caregivers as measured by the PSS was 18.9 (out of 39); this was 5.5 points higher than the U.S. average of 13.4 and about 3 points higher than the average reported among survivors of Hurricane Sandy in a study conducted last year (15.6). 

Contributing most to greater distress were caregiver health problems, providing frequent caregiving assistance, monitoring medication, having limited social support, and having negative views of caregiving (such as the task being financially burdensome or lacking in emotional rewards). 

Lerner and colleagues suggested the results point to several ways to reduce caregiver distress, including helping caregivers to “feel more emotionally rewarded in this role” and “maximizing the availability of social supports.”

These “results provide new information regarding the complexity of caregiver distress, including the multiple variables involved in determining the caregiver’s mental health outcome. This study also contributes further evidence of the potential value of providing interventions to address caregiver health, caregiving demands, financial burdens and emotional rewards, and access to social supports,” the authors concluded.

To read more about this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “Factors Predicting Poor MH Health Identified in ICU Caregivers.”

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