Risk for dementia in close and elderly caregiver spouses

A significant re search finding concerning the intimate or very close care for a spouse with dementia can be extremely stressful most especially for a spouse with deep emotional ties to someone whose behavior may become suddenly strange or even abusive. This has a very strong influence on the mindset and behavior of the caregiver.

Older adults whose spouses have dementia are on the average six times more likely to develop the condition.

The danger is several- fold higher for men than women, found the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Dementia is not a disease but covers a group of symptoms including memory loss, agitation, mood swings, extreme irritability and changes in personality. It is caused by disorders that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s.

Earlier research has shown that dementia caregivers are at a higher risk for health problems including depression.

But thea new study, led by Dr. Maria Norton of Utah State University is the first to examine risk for dementia in caregivers.

A total of 1,221 married couples aged 65 and older were the subjects of the study which lasted for 12 years to monitor the onset of said symptoms.

Among the couples, 125 cases were diagnosed in the man alone and 70 in the woman alone. In addition, there were 30 couples in whom both persons were affected.

Even with confounding influences factored out, the risk of onset symptoms for participants with a spouse who developed dementia increased nearly 12-fold for men and 3.7-fold for women.

“Given the significant public health concern of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and the incoming shift in population composition, continued research in the causes of dementia is urgent,” Dr. Norton said in a press release.

“Future studies are needed to determine how much off this association is due to caregiver stress compared to a shared environment,” she said.