Lack of time for other activities beyond caregiving is associated with high rates of depression in parents of children with cerebral palsy, according to researchers.
Help to relieve the burden and exhaustion of parental caregivers, especially those with preschool children, must include the support of family and community members such as neighbors, according to the report from Jeonju University in South Korea.
The study, “Time burden of caring and depression among parents of individuals with cerebral palsy,” published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation, compared caregiving time, time pressure, and depression in 152 parents who cared for individuals with cerebral palsy and evaluated how the frequency of depression correlated with time spent caregiving and time pressure.
Depression was measured according to the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale 11 (CES-D-11), a self-report questionnaire where scores above 16 indicate significant depression symptoms. Time pressure referred to all social and leisure activities caregivers missed, including family gatherings, meeting with friends, and travel and vacations.
Parents of people with cerebral palsy are typically primary caregivers and more commonly experience strong emotional states such as depression and anger than parents of healthy children. And while the time spent caregiving did not seem to affect depression rates in parents, the increased time pressure was associated with a higher risk of depression: 38.2% of the respondents scored 16 or higher on the depression scale, indicating significant depressive symptoms.
However, depression rates in this study were higher than in previous ones, which may reflect a specific South Korean context.
The physical and psychological difficulties experienced by parents supporting a child with a disability varies depending on the child’s age, as does families’ care burden: Families supporting a preschool child spent more time than those supporting adults with cerebral palsy, while those supporting adults felt less time pressure than those supporting patients of other ages.
The degree of the disability also affects parents’ care burden, with a higher disability degree demanding a greater care time.
As time pressure is the factor linked to soaring depression rates (not time spent caregiving), interventions are needed to prevent or alleviate depression in parents. These should be tailored to include the cerebral palsy child’s life stage and focus on parents with preschool-age children.
And, to reduce day-to-day difficulties experienced by children’s caregivers, “it is important to form a support system made up of family, relatives, and neighbors who can offer both emotional and practical support,” the study concludes.