Suicidal distress in caregivers
Caregivers are experiencing distress, this is well known, especially those who help a loved one with cognitive impairment. What is less well known is that some of these caregivers end up thinking about suicide.
C ‘is a doctoral student of fourth year in psychology from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Audrey Teasdale-Dubé, who had the idea to look into the matter. This topic of study, a first for Canada, came to her when she worked for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. “A lot of old people were calling,” she says.
Ms. Teasdale-Dubé will present the conclusions of her thesis at the 87th ACFAS Congress, to be held May 27-31 in Gatineau.
The doctoral candidate in psychology was able to find six participants, three men and three women, for this study. All were caregivers of a relative, mostly a spouse, but also a parent or child with neurocognitive disorders. All had thought of suicide.
Audrey Teasdale-Dubé wanted to know why. Better understanding this extreme emotion can eventually help better help those who help, she says.
These participants reported that they all experience many family conflicts and feel lonely. Some are blamed for the way they provide care and attention to the person being helped. Sometimes it can happen when the caregiver takes a break.
For many, the idea of placing the assisted person in a CHSLD is a very difficult decision to make, says the candidate in psychology. This is because CHSLDs have a very bad reputation, she says, and disagreements can arise between family members about where to place the person.
Even the person being cared for blames his caregiver, says the researcher, because she is not always aware of the growing needs and losses she is experiencing.
The placement of the person is sometimes perceived as a relief, but there are caregivers who feel guilty to do so, says the researcher. “It can be experienced as an abandonment,” she explains. And the difficulty gets worse when the family is opposed.
All these disagreements with the family, the exhaustion that generates the help given to the person with cognitive loss, the difficulty caused by the idea of placing the person when the caregiver can not, the feeling of injustice felt, there are so many reasons for the caregiver to want to kill himself.
“It’s a very difficult and very complex situation,” says Teasdale-Dubé. “We do not talk about it enough.”
This subject has been studied in Australia, but it is about where the scientific literature on the subject stops, noted the doctoral student who wants to support the case for Quebec.
We must be sensitive to the alarm signals that the caregiver could experience. Ms. Teasdale-Dubé suggests being more attentive to them. Alarm bells are often too discreet, especially among seniors. Care should be taken if the caregiver mentions that he is exhausted, experiencing difficulties with the family, showing signs of emotional distress. “Every human is different,” she says. “You have to listen, give him some services. Doubts and reproaches must not take the place, “she summarizes.
Some, for example, will be in denial when the idea of placing the person will become unavoidable. This is because people with cognitive loss do not have only bad moments. They also have good moments, which makes the caregiver say that he is still able to help even if it is not really the case, says Teasdale-Dubé.
The doctoral student of UQTR wants to push his analysis further and has just started a new study that will allow him to analyze the extent of this phenomenon of suicidal distress.
She is also looking for new participants for this research, which should highlight a profile of caregivers living in suicidal distress.
People aged 60 and over who are natural caregivers and who experience such difficulties are invited to contact the researcher to answer a questionnaire that can be done online or on paper in any discretion. It takes 45 minutes to answer.
The final results of this research will be communicated to aid organizations that supported the recruitment of study participants: the Association of Caregivers Arthabaska Maple, APPUI-Mauricie, SUPPORT Center-du-Québec, the Group of Caregivers Mauricie, the Association of Caregivers of the Batiscan Valley and Maison Carpe Diem.
To register for the study, please contact Audrey Teasdale-Dubé at 819-376-5011, extension 4282 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A raffle of gift vouchers will be made among the participants.