Caregivers experience depression, isolation


POSTED: Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Caregivers need as much support as the person they are caring for, advocates say.

“;If you're not watching over the caregiver, you're not taking care of the (ill) person, either,”; said Jeannette Koijane, executive director of Kokua Mau, a hospice and palliative care organization.

Advocates spoke in general terms of the enormous stress caregivers deal with in the wake of the death of Robert M. Yagi of Kailua. Yagi, 71, committed suicide over the weekend.

Since October, Yagi's wife, Leatrice, also 71, has been hospitalized at Castle Medical Center for a terminal illness.

Yagi was seen in his wife's hospital room daily, keeping her company and tending to her needs, according to a police affidavit.

;[Preview]  Assisted Suicide

Robert Yagi killed himself in his home after attempting to kill his ailing wife in the hospital.

Watch ]


But last week, Yagi entered his wife's room and shot her with a plastic flare gun, police said. He may have tried to take his own life at the same time, using another flare gun loaded with a 12-gauge buckshot, according to the affidavit. Leatrice Yagi suffered minor injuries.

Six days later, Robert Yagi committed suicide.

“;It's incredibly unfortunate that this is the option that he thought he had,”; said Dr. Anna Loengard, medical director of St. Francis Hospice. “;He was certainly suffering. His wife is suffering.”;

Depression, isolation, frustration, anger and guilt are emotions that some caregivers experience, according to Loengard. Caring for a loved one 24/7, “;you feel like you can't get out and reach out to anyone.”;

Palliative care is one option that family members can turn to. In contrast to hospice care, where an individual is suffering from a terminal illness and has less than six months to live, palliative care can provide care as early as the time of the patient's diagnosis. It is more of a holistic approach, involving support for the family, said Loengard.

Koijane said some caregivers might also deal with anticipatory grief as their loved one's health get worse. “;It's so difficult to watch that,”; she said.

Wes Lum, board member of the Hawaii Family Caregiver Coalition, also pointed out how financial worries about out-of-pocket expenses such as doctor visits and prescription drugs compound an already exhausting situation, overwhelming the caregiver.

Support groups and respite care are available, but advocates say more needs to be done for the patient and caregiver.

It is vital for caregivers to reach out. “;A lot of those people feel helpless,”; said Loengard. “;They need all the support they can get.”;





        A total of 78,153 caregivers, or 18 percent of the state's adult population, provide care for a person age 60 and over, based on a 2007 Hawaii Health survey conducted by the Department of Health. Of that figure:

        » 55 percent are employed.

        » 21 percent are retired.

        » 23 percent are not employed.

        » 70 percent are female.

        » 30 percent are male.

        » 6 percent are 18 to 30 years old.

        » 11 percent are 31 to 40 years old.

        » 20 percent are 41 to 50 years old.

        » 42 percent are 51 to 65 years old.

        » 21 percent are over 65 years old.

Household income:

        » 22 percent earn between $25,000 and $49,999.

        » 23 percent earn between $50,000 and $74,999.

        » 15 percent earn between $75,000 and $99,999.

        » 17 percent earn between $100,000 and $149,999.

        » 10 percent earn $150,000 or more.

Source: State Executive Office on Aging








        » Kokua Mau: Hawaii's Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: kokuamau.org

        » Hawaii's Aging and Disability Resource Center: www.hawaiiadrc.org

        » Palliative Doctors: palliativedoctors.org

        » Get Palliative Care: getpalliativecare.org

        » Today's Caregiver: http://hsblinks.com/1j2