Watching friends of my parents slip away into Alzheimer’s disease is painful. Perhaps the most devastating part is watching their spouses struggle to care for them as the illness becomes progressively worse.
It is painful to see such declines in people you remember in their full vigor. I can only imagine how challenging it is for their spouses and other family members. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests the stress of caring for a loved one with dementia can be so great that it can lead to dementia in the healthy caregiver.
The 12-year study followed 2,442 men and women aged 65 or older. Those participants whose spouses developed dementia were six times more likely to develop the condition themselves. Perhaps this can serve as a reminder to all of us that we should provide more help and RR time for our friends and family members who serve as the primary caregivers of loved ones with dementia.
In the paper’s Health & Science section for Monday, May 10 my colleague Tom Avril will report on the study. Here is a preview of that brief story:
It’s no secret that taking care of a spouse with dementia can be stressful, but new research suggests the stress is so great that it can lead to dementia in the healthy caregiver.
In the 12-year study of 2,442 men and women aged 65 or older, people whose spouses developed dementia were six times more likely to develop the disease themselves, when compared with those whose spouses remained dementia-free. This held true after socioeconomic status and age were taken into account, among other variables.
The authors said they could not rule out the possibility that other factors might be playing a role in cases where both spouses developed dementia, such as shared environmental exposures.
The findings were published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.