BACKGROUND: Many intensive care unit survivors (ICU) are confronted with undesirable and long-lasting impairments in physical, cognitive, and mental health, but not only patients are at risk of developing this post-intensive care syndrome (PICS). Family members can experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This cluster of complications is called PICS-family.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the level of caregiver strain and posttraumatic stress-related symptoms in relatives of ICU survivors.
METHODS: We conducted a cohort study in a general hospital between July 2010 and May 2014. Relatives of ICU survivors, mechanically ventilated for > 48 h in the ICU, were asked to complete a questionnaire 3 months after discharge from critical care. Symptoms of PTSD and caregiving concerns were assessed using the Trauma Screening Questionnaire and the Caregiver Strain Index (CSI).
RESULTS: A total of 94 relatives visiting our post-ICU clinic completed the questionnaires. Twenty-one percent of the caregivers had a CSI score of 7 or more, indicating high levels of strain. Six percent had CSI scores indicating severe strain (CSI > 10). PTSD-related symptoms were seen in 21% of the caregivers. The mean time spent on caregiving was 10 h (interquartile range 6-17 h) per week.
CONCLUSION: This study shows that relatives of ICU survivors could experience strain 3 months after hospital discharge and are at risk of developing PTSD-related symptoms. This complements existing data that relatives are at risk of psychological symptoms. Knowledge can lead to improvements and means to prevent these symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record