Prevalence of depression among caregivers of patients receiving palliative care in Kenyatta national hospital
Background: Chronically ill and end of life patients are increasingly being cared for in the home by their families, friends, or neighbours. As care has shifted from the hospital to the home, the role of family caregiver has been transformed into a complex, multifaceted responsibility which may have consequences on the mental health of primary caregivers. Studies have shown that 40 to 70 percent of caregivers experience symptoms of depression (7). Identifying caregivers with depression is therefore necessary for various interventions to be considered. The general objective was to determine the prevalence of depressive symptoms in caregivers of patients undergoing palliative care (most of whom are patients suffering from cancer) to determine their socio-demographic characteristics associated with depressive symptoms. The population comprised of caregivers of patients undergoing palliative care at the Kenyatta National Hospital. It was a cross-sectional study. Questionnaires were administered using Beck’s Depression Inventory and a researcher designed socio-demographic characteristics questionnaire of the caregiver. Data was analyzed using SPSS version 18 and statistical data analysis was carried out. Results were presented using frequency tables, bar charts and pie charts. The results showed that 62.7% of the caregivers presented with symptoms of depression. This is four times higher as compared to the general population. The severity of the depressive symptoms ranged from mild to severe with the majority experiencing symptoms of severe depression. Spousal caregivers had the highest prevalence of depressive symptoms followed by those who were taking care of their children. Recommendation includes having healthcare providers do routine screening for depression in family caregivers and not just on patients alone. Respite care also provides a temporary relief to the caregiver and should be instituted in the care of the terminally ill. There should be advocacy for policy change for flexible employment arrangement for family caregivers who may need time off from work.