Ninety-four per cent of dementia carers are sleep deprived, according to new research from Edith Cowan University.
It is estimated that more than 2.65 million carers give their time to look after a friend or loved one and researchers say that the severe lack of sleep can lead to poor health of the carer – and may also impact on their ability to provide care for the person living with dementia.
Lack of sleep, they say, is associated with poor psychological outcomes as well as physical ailments such as hypertension, obesity, mood disorders and dementia
Of the carers studied 94 per cent of participants were poor sleepers, with 84 per cent having difficulty initiating sleep and 72 per cent reporting difficulty maintaining sleep.
Stress was the most common predictor of sleep quality and 44 per cent of participants exhibited two or more chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and diabetes. Participants also recorded psychological distress such as depression and anxiety.
The study was led by Dr Aisling Smyth from ECU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery in conjunction with Alzheimer’s WA and Smyth said that a disrupted sleep pattern is a significant factor in predicting the placement of a loved one into long term care.
“Enabling people living with dementia to stay at home, rather than transfer to long term care is the optimal outcome for many families, but this can’t be at the detriment of the caregiver’s own wellbeing.
“Therefore, to support the person living with dementia to remain at home, preserving sleep and maintaining caregiver health is vital,” Smyth said.
Alzheimer’s WA head of dementia practice Jason Burton said: “We hear from many family members about the effect the caring role can have on their quality of sleep, and the negative impacts this can have.
“We have partnered with ECU in this research to learn more about this impact and to find ways to support carers to maintain their health and quality of life.”
This week is both National Carers Week and World Mental Health Week and aged care minister Richard Colbeck took time to recognise the sacrifice that carers make.
“The commitment of carers across Australia to support senior and vulnerable Australians should not be underestimated,” Colbeck said.
“Carers are integral to the quality of life and independence of many Australians and make an important economic contribution to the community.
“For all those people who put the needs of others before their own, we say thank you.”
The government has released a number of mental health packages to help support the community and carers doing it tough during the pandemic, Colbeck said in a recent statement,.
He pointed to the Head to Health website, aimed at carers and their loved ones, and Carer Gateway as two contacts for support.
“Anyone at any time can become a carer so this year – and beyond – we acknowledge and commend the outstanding contribution made by carers in our community,” he said.
Of the 2.65 million carers in Australia, around 861,000 carers are primary carers, those who provide the most informal support to a family member or friend. Seven out of 10 primary carers are women while one in 11 carers are under the age of 25.
The weekly median income of primary carers aged 15-64 is $800 compared to non-carers, who receive a median weekly income of $997. One-third of primary carers provide 40 hours or more of unpaid care per week.
Deloittes Access Economics estimates that the annual replacement value of all unpaid care in Australia has risen to $77.9 billion – an increase of 29 per cent since similar research was last conducted in 2015.
For more information, please visit the Carer Gateway.
National Carers Week continues until 17 October.Do you have an idea for a story?
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