Self-Esteem, Optimism Help When Caring for Spouse After Stroke

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Self-esteem and optimism influence depression in both stroke survivors and their spouse caregivers, and both people should be treated together, according to a new study.

Depression is common in stroke patients and the wives or husbands who take care of them, the researchers said.

They followed 112 depressed stroke survivors and their partners for up to eight weeks after the patients were released from the hospital. The patients' average age was 62, and 66 percent of them were men. The spouse caregivers' average age was 60, and 66 percent of them were women.

Self-esteem and optimism influence each partner's depression, according to the study, scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Stroke Association, in Honolulu.

"We usually have been focused on the outcome of the stroke survivor, but we found that the self-esteem and optimism of the spouse caretaker is related to the patient's depression," study author Misook Chung, an associate professor in the University of Kentucky's College of Nursing, said in an American Heart Association news release.

"When the spouse has a high level of self-esteem and optimism, the patient has lower levels of depression," Chung said.

The impact spouses can have on stroke survivors' depression has often been ignored, according to the news release, but this study looked at stroke patients and their husband or wife caregivers as a unit instead of individually.

"Intervention needs to be given not only to the patient but to the caregiver spouse to maximize the patient's outcome," Chung said. "Maintaining an optimistic and positive view is very important not only for the patient but for the caregiver spouse so that quality of care for the patient can be improved."

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The National Stroke Association offers a guide for caregivers of stroke survivors.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Feb. 6, 2013

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