Meg Pickup, of Ballina, was her mother's carer until about a year ago and says she is not surprised about the findings from research suggesting many carers contemplate suicide.
Meg Pickup, of Ballina, was her mother's carer until about a year ago and says she is not surprised about the findings from research suggesting many carers contemplate suicide. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Study shows some dementia carers contemplate suicide

THE severe social impact of dementia has been highlighted in a pilot study suggesting more than a quarter of carers for dementia patients have contemplated suicide.

Griffith University researchers surveyed 120 family carers across Australia and the United States and found 26% had contemplated suicide in the previous year.

Of those, 30% believed they would attempt suicide in the future.

>> If you are experiencing depression of having suicidal thoughts, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or use their online crisis support chat.

Veteran dementia carer Meg Pickup, who cared full-time for her mother Mary for five years until she was placed into a nursing home, said she wasn't surprised by the report's findings.

"I've seen the frustration that some of the carers I know are experiencing, so it wouldn't surprise me in the least that some have thought about that sort of response," Ms Pickup said.

"It is actually quite a demanding position for people to be placed in.

"My position is different from all of the other carers that I know ... I'm caring for my mum, whereas all the other carers are caring for their spouses.

"Here you are married to someone for 40 years and it's time to flow on into that lovely life of retirement, and it doesn't happen.

"The person is physically there, but their personality changes and the ability to communicate with that person disappears.

"They lose their soul mates and what they end up with is a shell.

"You become the carer for someone who is simply a physical presence. All the (reciprocal) commitment that goes with having a loving relationship just dies."

Ms Pickup said carers who were looking after their spouses often deal with their own health issues because they were entering old age.

"They have to look after their health and that can be quite challenging as well. If the carer is not well, then the whole relationship collapses," she said.

"Then you can start to see why these things happen.

"The hardest thing is watching the person change and knowing that you are losing that person."

Ms Pickup said the conclusions of the study, published in the journal Ageing and Mental Health, more than justified a recent campaign on the Northern Rivers to maintain Federal funding to dementia outreach services.

Off the back of the campaign, Page MP Kevin Hogan secured a funding lifeline for the Dementia Outreach Program to continue for at least another two years.



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