Stroke survivor cognitive decline and psychological wellbeing of family caregivers five years post-stroke: a cross-sectional analysis

Background: Family members frequently provide long-term care for stroke survivors, which can lead to psychological strain, particularly in the presence of cognitive decline.

Objectives: To profile anxious and depressive symptoms of family caregivers at 5 years post-stroke, and to explore associations with stroke survivor cognitive decline.

Methods: As part of a 5-year follow-up of the Action on Secondary Prevention Interventions and Rehabilitation in Stroke (ASPIRE-S) cohort of stroke survivors, family members completed a self-report questionnaire. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were assessed using the HADS-A and CES-D. Cognitive decline in stroke survivors was assessed from the caregiver’s perspective using the IQCODE, with cognitive performance assessed by the MoCA. Data were analyzed using logistic regression models.

Results: 78 family members participated; 25.5% exhibited depressive symptoms, 19.4% had symptoms of anxiety. Eleven stroke survivors (16.7%) had evidence of cognitive decline according to both the IQCODE and MoCA. Family members of stroke survivors with cognitive decline were significantly more likely to report symptoms of depression [age-adjusted OR (95% CI): 5.94 (1.14, 30.89)] or anxiety [age-adjusted OR (95% CI): 5.64 (1.24, 25.54)] than family members of stroke survivors without cognitive decline.

Conclusions: One-fifth of family caregivers exhibited symptoms of anxiety and one-quarter symptoms of depression at 5 years post-stroke. Stroke survivor cognitive decline was significantly associated with both depressive and anxious symptoms of family caregivers. Family members play a key role in the care and rehabilitation of stroke patients; enhancing their psychological wellbeing and identifying unmet needs are essential to improving outcomes for stroke survivors and families.