A report covering the issue of homicide ideation among family carers of people with dementia has been published in Ageing and Mental Health journal.  It explores the circumstances under which carers of people with dementia may have thoughts about ending the life of the person they care for (sometimes in conjunction with thoughts about suicide).

“The authors of the report are careful to stress that homicidal thoughts do not necessarily lead to homicidal acts,” said Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia.

While the majority of those interviewed (19 out of 21 participants) had not actively thought about ending the life of the person they cared for, they did admit that they understood how carers could have these thoughts and acknowledged a range of factors that could contribute to this.

“Motivations for such thoughts are diverse and complex, encompassing compassion for the person with dementia, possible fears for their own safety, and just feeling they can’t cope anymore,” said Ms Cresswell.

“A real benefit of this report is that it addresses a taboo subject that carers don’t feel free to discuss and which can leave them feeling extremely guilty.

“Opening up discussion on this subject can provide comfort to carers that they are not alone in having such thoughts and that there are services available to help them cope both with their feelings and the toll the caring role for someone with dementia can have on their own health and well-being.

“In particular, respite from the caring role and counselling can play a major role in helping carers to cope,” said Ms Cresswell.

A 2012 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report on Dementia in Australia found that more than half of all dementia carers wanted support to improve their situation (52%) and the opportunity for respite rated as the greatest area of unmet need for support. About one in four of those surveyed reported that they need more respite than they currently access.

Support for the carers of people with dementia can be found through:

  • Carers Australia’s Network of state and territory Carers Associations – 1800 242 636;
  • National Dementia Helpline – 1800 100 500; and
  • Lifeline (13 11 14) which is a crisis support and suicide prevention service.