|dc.description.abstract||With the rapidly ageing global population, there will be increased demand on informal older carers, who provide important roles in supporting older adults to live longer in their own homes. Depression in older carers is a well-known adverse outcome, however there is lack of consistent knowledge concerning factors associated with this outcome.
The research reported in this thesis therefore investigated factors associated with depressive symptoms in a sample of older carers living at home with the older adults with whom they were caring for (the care-recipient, CR). This study differs from previous work in that a variety of different, but clinically relevant factors have been investigated.
A convenience sample of 202 older carers were assessed cross-sectionally on their demographic characteristics, health measures, depressive symptoms, personality, attitudes to ageing, and CR factors (CR diagnosis and the hours spent caring). The cut-off score on the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15) of ≥5 was used to delineate “depressed” and “non-depressed” carers, and a comparison of these characteristics was made between the 87 depressed, and 115 non-depressed carers.
Female gender, but no other demographic factors were associated with a higher number of depressive symptoms. The CR diagnosis was not an independent factor associated with depressive symptoms. Higher levels of Neuroticism and more negative attitudes to ageing in the carers were associated with depressive symptoms. Depressed carers had worse physical health, participated in increased amounts of domestic physical activity (PA), but similar amounts of leisure-PA, compared to non-depressed carers. The regression analyses demonstrated that higher levels of Neuroticism, increased hours spent caring, and possibly increased amounts of domestic-PA, were independent factors associated with depressive symptoms.
The findings of this study highlight the importance of carer-related factors when identifying risk factors for depressive symptoms in older carers. The clinical implications of this study, particularly that increased hours of care are a risk factor for depressive symptoms, suggest that in order to potentially reduce the risk of developing depression, older carers should be encouraged to “share the care” – that is the support of the CR should be preferably spread among more than one person, whether this be among other family members, and/or formal care services. Thus, being able to access support services such as “Home Help”, and respite is important. This approach may not be supported by the principles behind the current Victorian Active Services Model, which encourages self-reliance and enablement. Clinicians have an important role to encourage older carers to accept help, but this needs to be individually tailored, taking into account the carers’ personality structure.||en_US