Background and purpose: We aimed to assess the prevalence of depressive symptoms among caregivers of stroke survivors and to determine which patient- or stroke-related factors are associated with and can be used to predict caregiver depression during an 18-month follow-up after stroke.
Methods: We examined 98 caregivers of 100 consecutive patients experiencing their first ischemic stroke in Helsinki University Central Hospital. The caregivers were interviewed at the acute phase and at 6 months and 18 months. Depression was assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory. The neurological, functional, cognitive, and emotional status of the patients was assessed 5x during the follow-up with a comprehensive test battery.
Results: A total of 30% to 33% of all caregivers were depressed during the follow-up; the rates were higher than those of the patients. At the acute phase, caregiver depression was associated with stroke severity and older age of the patient, and at 18 months the older age of the patient was associated with depression of the spouses. In later follow-up, caregiver depression was best predicted by the caregiver's depression at acute phase.
Conclusions: Identifying those caregivers at highest risk for poor emotional outcome in follow-up requires not only assessment of patient-related factors but also interview of the caregiver during the early poststroke period.