Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 May 2011
Family caregivers of cancer patients suffer from physical, psychological, and social distress and therefore are often referred to as second order patients. Akathisia is a common side effect of antipsychotics and antidepressants that causes great discomfort and even agitation and is often described by patients administered these drugs as the most distressing side effect of their treatment. Several studies of akathisia as a cause of distress in cancer patients have been reported. However, akathisia has not been reported as a cause of distress in family caregivers of cancer patients.
A 74-year-old spouse caregiver who was under treatment for major depressive disorder was not able to visit the hospital where her husband, a terminally ill cancer patient, was being treated. Initially, the spouse caregiver thought that she could not visit the hospital because of the symptoms of her depression and her grief about losing her husband. However, careful clinical examination revealed that she was suffering from akathisia in addition to her grief.
Discontinuation of her sulpiride treatment resulted in the disappearance of her akathisia symptoms, and therefore she became able to visit the hospital and care for her terminally ill husband.
Drug induced akathisia is a cause of distress in spouse caregivers taking certain drugs. It is important for clinicians to realize that family caregivers might suffer from not only socioeconomic, physical, and psychological problems but also side effects of medication.