Institute for Health & Ageing

Caring for the Carer

Dementia Carers Project

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Improving the health of carers of individuals living with dementia is a priority area for the IHA as this is a critical issue that impacts upon a vast number of ageing Australians. For example, there are over 300,000 individuals living with dementia, and in the next 10 years this number is projected to increase to over 400,000 (AIHW, 2013). Approximately two thirds of individuals with dementia are living at home and being cared for by family members.

The chronic stress experienced by family carers of people with dementia is the primary reason for their significant burden of care. This carer burden is consistently associated with a range of health concerns including depression, anxiety, physical illness and social isolation. Carer stress and burnout can contribute to the development of negative feelings about the care recipient, and compromises the quality of care provided for the person with dementia.

Dementia family carers’ experiences are individualised and complex. IHA is working to understand more about dementia family carers’ experiences of providing care, and the impact of this on their own health and wellbeing. The aim of this research is to investigate specific aspects of the carer experience that contribute to carer stress and burden. For example, the practical management of dementia symptoms, carers coping in response to ongoing stress, carers’ personal wellbeing needs, and the relationship between the dementia family carer and the person with dementia. This research will inform the development of psychosocial interventions designed to enhance dementia family carers’ capacities to manage the carer role, and improve their personal wellbeing.