Caring for a person with dementia is readily acknowledged as a challenging task. Despite these challenges, the majority of people with dementia are cared for in the community by a family member. Research suggests that 25% of these carers are providing in excess of 40 hours care each week. Unfortunately, caring can take its toll on individuals. People who care for a person with dementia experience higher than average rates of of depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. Although all three of these factors have been associated with suicidal thoughts, no study has previously examined whether the rate of suicidal thoughts is higher in carers of people with dementia than in the wider population.
Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer from the DCRC – Carers and Consumers, and her colleagues from Griffith University have recently completed a study examining suicidal ideation in dementia carers. They recruited 120 participants from six online carer discussion boards to take part in an online survey. The survey contained measures of suicidality, self-efficacy, physical health, depression, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, optimism, caregiver burden, coping strategies, and social support.
The results showed that around 26% of carers (1 in 4) had contemplated suicide more than once in the past year – more than eight times the prevalence found in the overall United States population. 30% of these carers also reported that they were likely to attempt suicide in the future.
While these results are preliminary and the authors emphasise that more research is required to confirm the figures, they do suggest that many carers are struggling and may need more support if they are to continue caring for a person with dementia.
This study was recently profiled on ABC Radio's PM, a recording of which can be found via the link below:
A copy of the journal article can also be found via the link below:
Other stories from this edition of Dementia Research News:
News In Brief