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Depression in ALS Caregivers May Exceed Patients'

Caregivers' burden, depression worsens with disease while patient depression remains stable

TUESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- While the state of depression and quality of life remains relatively stable for an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patient as his or her condition worsens, their caregivers experience a significant increase in burden and depression, researchers report in the March 20 issue of Neurology.

Adriano Chiò, M.D., of the University of Torino in Italy, and colleagues assessed 31 ALS patient-caregiver couples during a period of nine months to evaluate the mood changes that occur as the patient's condition worsens. Functional activity was assessed by the ALS-Functional Rating scale, quality of life was assessed by the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire, and depression was ranked by the Zung Depression Scale.

The investigators found that while the patients' average functional rating dropped from 28.7 to 24.1 during the nine-month period, their quality of life increased slightly from 6.8 to 7.1. Depression scores increased slightly but remained in the "not depressed" range. In contrast, caregivers' quality of life decreased slightly and depression increased from 38.9 to 42.2.

"Interventions specifically designed to enhance the communication effectiveness between patients and caregivers might improve the psychological well-being of both parties, helping patients to be more aware of their caregivers' needs, and caregivers to get more apt to accept their straining but invaluable role," the authors conclude.

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