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 Caregivers Of Spouses With Alzheimer’s Most Likely To Suffer From Depression

Washington, D.C.—Husbands and wives who care for spouses afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease were more than 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression, and those caring for men were more likely to suffer from depression than those caring for women, a new study​ has found.

Singaporean researchers at the National University Health System pooled data from 17 prior studies of the mental well-being of those caring for patients with Alzheimer’s and found that the gender of the caregiver, the gender of the afflicted, as well as “a spousal relationship,” were the three most significant factors in whether caregivers were likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

It’s already notorious that caregivers—especially caregivers—are hard-pressed, and their plight has already become a peripheral issue in next year’s presidential races. But, in what may be the first study of its kind, Adnaan bin Sallim and his colleagues crunched the data behind surveys of nearly 11,000 caregivers and put together an objective picture that is every bit as bleak as the subjective one:
  • More than one-third of caregivers suffered from depression;
  • Nearly 44 percent of caregivers suffered from some kind of anxiety disorder; and
  • More than one-quarter of caregivers were taking psychotropic drugs to deal with their stresses.
Women were at least 2.5 times more likely to suffer from anxiety, and those who lived with their wards were more than 2.2. times more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, Sallim and his colleagues found. Their finds were published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA).

“Overall, health care professionals should constantly monitor caregivers for symptoms of psychiatric disorders, particularly depression, and provide appropriate intervention, especially to the aforementioned at-risk groups,” Sallim writes.

He’s pushing on the door as far as Dayne DuVall is concerned. DuVall, chief operating officer of the National Certification Board for Alzheimer Care, has long argued that the relief of caregivers has to become more central to dementia care and funding.

“This review just shows again that resources must to be made available to people who provide care to persons with dementia,” he tells Provider. “They should also be educated on how to care for themselves during the long haul of the disease. We know that this is especially true for a spouse of someone with dementia, who often predeceases the person in their care. No amount of research dollars​ for a cure will assist families in providing care.”

Bill Myers is Provider’s senior editor. Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @ProviderMyers.

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