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Risk of post-traumatic stress disorder in family caregivers of neuroscience intensive care unit patients

JiYeon Choi, and Judith A. Tate

Journal of Emergency And Critical Care Medicine

Medical Journal

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Critical Care Physicians, Nurses and/or Other Critical Care Medical Professionals

No

Family caregivers of intensive care unit (ICU) patients are exposed to high levels of stress (1). During ICU admission, family caregivers are in a position to witness the stress-provoking ICU environment more vividly than the patients who lack physical and cognitive capacity to control or understand surroundings. Because limited decisional capacity is common in patients during the critical phase of their illness, many family caregivers are expected to take the role of a surrogate decision maker to discuss options for life supporting treatments. Demands on family caregivers do not stop after patients’ ICU discharge. Recovering from critical illness leads to a new phase of complex and unpredictable illness experience. Over time, support from formal resources dissipate and more responsibilities are assumed by family caregivers. Decades of research have highlighted that ICU family caregivers are at risk for adverse psychological responses at various timelines across the trajectory of their loved one’s illness, recovery and/or death (2-4). Despite growing awareness, supportive and effective interventions targeted to family caregivers of ICU patients are lacking (2). One of major challenges in developing interventions may be limited knowledge of ways to identify family caregivers at high risk for severe stress response and other modifiable risk factors.

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