Informal caregivers of stroke patients who can no longer feed themselves or communicate are at greater risk for depression, and likewise, stroke patients with depressed caregivers do not function as well as those with happy, healthy caregivers, finds a study in the May issue of Rehabilitation Psychology (Vol. 54, No. 2).

Lead author Paul Perrin, a psychology graduate student at the University of Florida, and his colleagues surveyed 124 ethnically diverse caregiver-stroke patient pairs at one, six and 12 months following the stroke survivors' hospital discharge, collecting data on both their mental and physical health. In addition to the close relationship between the health of the pairs, he found that the caregivers who had good mental health a month into their caregiving experience tended to maintain their mental health 11 months later.

The results suggest that rehabilitation psychologists should consider supporting caregivers as well as stroke survivors—and would do well to target people who show signs of distress early on.

"Rehabilitation programs that only focus on the stroke patient may be approaching rehabilitation with only about half the power they potentially could," he says.

—S. Dingfelder