FRIDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Though caring for a stroke survivor can be challenging, many family members doing just that say they experience little or no stress and actually find the task personally rewarding, U.S. researchers have found.
The study included 75 people who were caring for a family member who'd had a stroke eight to 12 months earlier. About 53 percent were caring for a spouse, 31 percent were looking after a child, and 16 percent were caregivers for another relative.
About 90 percent of the caregivers said the experience enabled them to appreciate life more, the study found. About 44 percent reported no strain, and 41 percent reported some strain.
The most stressful issues, the caregivers said, were the family member's problems with mood (depression, loneliness and anxiety) and memory, and the physical care, especially dressing and bowel control, that was needed.
The caregivers' average depression scores were well below scores typically reported in studies in which participants are recruited from clinical settings, according to the researchers, led by William E. Haley, a professor at the School of Aging Studies of the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Along with having an increased appreciation for life, the caregivers in the study reported a number of other benefits from the experience, including "feeling needed" and "developing a more positive attitude toward life."
The findings show that "even in the face of challenging caregiving roles, many families are resilient and find personal benefit and meaning from providing assistance to a loved one," Haley said in a news release from the American Heart Association.
The study appears in the current issue of the association's journal Stroke.
"Support for caregivers should include interventions to aid their coping with highly stressful mood, physical care and cognitive problems of stroke patients, but should also attend to perceived benefits of caregiving," Haley said.
The Family Caregiver Alliance offers information and advice for caregivers.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, April 30, 2009