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Schizophrenia Study Highlights Costs for Carers

Schizophrenia Study Highlights Financial And Health Costs for Carers

A study on carers who look after family members with schizophrenia has quantified the financial and health costs associated with providing such care.

The study ‘Impact of Schizophrenia on Carers in New Zealand’ which was carried out in conjunction with the Supporting Families NZ took place last year and involved face-to-face interviews of 51 people who care for family members with schizophrenia. Those interviewed ranged in age from 34-76 years and the majority were parents looking after children with schizophrenia.

Supporting Families NZ national liaison manager (co-researcher of the study) Anna Ah Kuoi, said the objective of the study was to determine the direct and indirect costs associated with caring for someone with schizophrenia, as well as the impact the condition has on other aspects of carers’ lives.

“On average, survey participants reported caring for the person with schizophrenia for 12 years,” Anna said.

“The results also show that carers typically spend about 52 hours a week providing care. This was higher than a similar study carried out in Australia.

“That time wasn’t spent solely on dealing with the impact of the condition but was also spent on dealing with additional psychological illnesses commonly experienced by people with schizophrenia including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.”

She said an interesting aspect of the survey showed that the time spent caring for someone with schizophrenia tended to be higher for respondents from the South Island.

“Conversely, the amount of time spent caring for other mental illnesses experienced by the person with schizophrenia was lower for South Island carers.”

When it came to assessing out of pocket expenses for those people looking after someone with the disorder, carers reported spending on average $64.96 each week on medical and other expenses.

Half of the carers surveyed were in paid employment, however, 40 per cent were unable to engage in their usual employment because of their caring responsibilities. The average drop in weekly income due to a reduction in paid employment was approximately $221.

More than three-quarters of carers said that the person they care for had previously been in paid employment. For those people with schizophrenia who were in paid employment, the average number of hours worked per week was 17.6 hours.

“Common themes to emerge from the carers were alienation, isolation and the stigma associated with schizophrenia,” Anna said.

“Carers report stress and anxiety due to the responsibility of caring. This is further compounded by lack of opportunities for the person with schizophrenia, responsibility of providing care, lack of services and the inability to plan or have respite periods.”

ENDS

Schizophrenia Awareness Week runs from 6-12 March.

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