London - Around 40 percent of people looking after loved ones with dementia are clinically depressed or suffering from anxiety, it has emerged.

Experts say the “profound effect” that Alzheimer’s has on family members who acts as carers is too often forgotten.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research UK charity, said: “Dementia doesn’t only affect those who are diagnosed with the condition. Its effects are felt far and wide, not least for individuals and families who are caring for their loved ones.”

The hidden toll of dementia was revealed by researchers from University College London who crunched together the results of studies from around the world.

This showed 40 percent of those who look after a family member with dementia to be clinically depressed or suffering from anxiety at any one time.

With two-thirds of people with dementia living at home and 670 000 carers in Britain, this equates to almost 270 000 men and women.

Researcher Professor Gill Livingston, of University College London, said that the care of a relative with dementia can be particularly taxing because of the length of the illness and its nature. Patients often do not realise they are ill and so resist help.

Physical help with nursing and chores is available but does not seem to cut the carer’s odds of mental health problems.

Now Professor Livingston and colleagues at UCL have devised a course designed to help carers.

They put 173 carers through an eight-hour course and compared their progress with 90 who went about their lives as usual.

After two years, those who did the short course were seven times less likely to be depressed than the others, the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen heard.

Dr Livingston now has money from the Alzheimer’s Society to train more programme leaders.

Dr Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “If results like these were found with a new drug, it would be hailed a breakthrough.” - Daily Mail