Background: Too little is currently known about the prevalence of and risk factors for depression and carer strain among informal carers of community-dwelling elderly mentally ill. This study seeks to assess the prevalence of depression, using the Geriatric Depression Scale-15 (GDS-15), the degree of carer burden/strain, and their risk factors among the primary informal carers of patients referred to our community-based old age psychiatry service.
Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used, with the subjects comprising 100 primary informal carers of patients who live at home and were referred to our service. The main carer measures were the GDS-15 and an adapted version of Gilleard's Strain Scale. Patients were assessed the Clifton Assessment Procedure for the Elderly–Survey version, the GDS-15 and the Mini-mental State Examination.
Results: Depression was found in 21% of the carers (a score of 5 or more on the GDS-15). The more problem behaviors identified and the greater the functional impairment of the patient, the higher the strain score deciles and the more likely the carer was to be depressed. Spouses were associated with lower carer strain scores. Patient diagnoses did not affect carer depression or carer strain.
Conclusion: We found high levels of depression in the primary carers of community-dwelling patients attending an old age psychiatric service. The patients' behavior and their cognitive and functional ability conferred greater risk of carer depression or strain than their diagnosis. These risk factors may help identify carers at risk of strain and depression.