Who is caring for carers?

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   12th Jun 2018

National Carers Week aims to celebrate the thousands of family carers around Ireland

Approximately 360,000 or 10 per cent of the adult population in Ireland are family carers who dedicate their time to looking after other members of the family who are unwell or need support.

National Carers Week which takes place this week (Monday 11 to Friday 15 June 2018), aims to celebrate all the thousands of family carers around Ireland and acknowledge the highly valuable work they do.

It is estimated that 86 per cent of family carers are family members and most are caring for either an aging parent or a child with high support needs.

We know that caring for loved ones after a stroke or heart attack can take a toll on a carer’s own health and it is important that the needs of carers themselves is also taken into consideration.

Indeed, a recent Irish study found that cognitive impairment such as memory loss, poor attention and behavioural changes were common post stroke and could have a significant impact on family members of stroke survivors.

One in four family members reported depressive symptoms and almost one in five reported symptoms of anxiety


The study, which was carried out by researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) in Dublin, found that family members of stroke patients with cognitive impairment were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

Part funded by the Irish Heart Foundation, the study used data from the five-year follow-up of the Action on Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Interventions in Stroke (ASPIRE-S) cohort of stroke patients. Family members completed a self-reported questionnaire and symptoms of anxiety and depression among family members and cognitive impairment in stroke survivors were assessed.

Family members included spouses or partners and adult children or siblings of stroke survivors.

According to the results, one in four or 25.5 per cent of family members reported depressive symptoms and almost one in five or 19.7 per cent reported symptoms of anxiety.

Almost a third or 29 per cent of stroke survivors were identified as having evidence of cognitive impairment and family members of stroke patients with cognitive difficulties were “significantly more likely to report depressive or anxious symptoms.”

Over 100 events will take place nationwide this week to celebrate and recognise the role of Ireland’s 360,000 family carers


According to the lead author of the study Daniella Rohde (HRB SPHeRE PHD student at the Division of Population Health Sciences, RCSI), while many people are aware of the physical side effects of stroke there is a lack of awareness of cognitive impairment and both stroke survivors and their families needed more help and support with these challenges.

Professor Anne Hickey, Head of Division of Population Health Sciences, RCSI explained that some of the more common types of cognitive impairment experienced by stroke survivors included problems with memory, attention and concentration as well as behavioural changes. She added that for some family members behavioural changes can be the most distressing aspect of cognitive impairment.

Prof Hickey added that people needed to understand that cognitive impairment was a common consequence of stroke and there was also a need for more information and support on this issue for patients and for care givers and family members.

Over 100 events will take place nationwide this week to celebrate and recognise the role of Ireland’s 360,000 family carers. To mark the 12th anniversary of the week in Ireland, The Carmichael Centre in Dublin will light up blue all week to raise awareness of the crucial role family carers play in Irish society.



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