New study finds caregivers of spouses with dementia enjoy life less

August 12, 2008

Spouses of husbands and wives with dementia pay an emotional toll as they care for their ailing spouse. This has prompted a call for new interventions and strategies to assist caregivers in coping with the demands of this difficult time, according to a study from Case Western Reserve University's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

"Caregivers have a long exposure to stresses and losses from the dementia and fatigue that comes from caring for their spouses, so they experience fewer positive emotions," said Kathryn Betts Adams, assistant professor of social work at the Mandel School. "Some may have feelings of guilt about participating in activities with friends or in the community when their loved ones are no longer able to do so."

Adams added that caregivers also report sadness and loneliness.

While prior studies have shown that caregiving can be a factor in diagnosing depression, Adams analyzed data from spouse caregivers and compared their responses to non-caregivers at the symptom level to determine which symptoms were especially common.

Findings from the research study of 391 caregivers and 226 non-caregivers from the Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals Alzheimer's Disease Research Center are described in the Journal of International Psychogeriatrics article, "Specific Effects of Caring for a Spouse with Dementia: Differences in Depressive Symptoms between Caregiver and Non-Caregiver Spouses."

After factoring out age, gender, education and income levels and race, some 25 percent of caregivers suffered from depression in contrast to only five percent of non-caregivers studied, said Adams. The caregivers were most notably different from the non-caregivers in their lack of positive emotions such as happiness or hopefulness.

The study's participants resided with their spouses. Of the spouses with dementia, approximately half had mild dementia, with 37 percent in stages of moderate to severe dementia. Only 23 percent of those questioned did not feel burdened by the responsibilities of caring for their spouses, but the remaining spouses reported feeling mildly to severely burdened.

Adams suggested that caregivers might benefit from support groups that "normalize" the emotions that surface while watching the dementia of their loved ones worsen. They can also be taught caregiving and decision making skills and given "permission" to increase pleasurable activities and engage in self-care.

Source: Case Western Reserve University

Explore further: Emotionally supportive virtual assistant could help people with Alzheimer's disease

Related Stories

Emotionally supportive virtual assistant could help people with Alzheimer's disease

August 14, 2017
Computer scientists at the University of Waterloo are creating a prototype of a virtual assistant to help people living with Alzheimer's disease. It will prompt them to complete day-to-day tasks by taking the person's personality ...

Intervention for caregivers of dementia patients can lead to substantial Medicaid savings

July 5, 2017
A new study published in The Gerontologist finds that states could save tens of millions of dollars—and help more Americans with dementia remain in their communities—if their caregivers took part in a program designed ...

Dementia patients may die sooner if family caregivers are mentally stressed

June 26, 2017
Patients with dementia may actually die sooner if their family caregivers are mentally stressed, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

'Making the best of it': Families face the heavy burden of Alzheimer's

June 2, 2017
(HealthDay)—For Marilyn and Tom Oestreicher, their golden years were within reach.

Study and new tool proves 'all is not lost' to dementia

May 11, 2017
In marriage, good communication is key to a fulfilling and enduring relationship. For people with dementia, communicating needs, emotions and interacting with others becomes increasingly difficult as communication deteriorates ...

Caring for caregivers

June 3, 2011
If your parent, spouse or best friend developed dementia this year, would you be prepared to care for them? How would you know if they wandered outside in the middle of the night and couldn’t find their way home? How ...

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.