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Health of Family Members Caring for Elderly Persons with Dementia: A Longitudinal Study

Mona Baumgarten, PhD; James A. Hanley, PhD; Claire Infante-Rivard, MD; Renaldo N. Battista, MD; Rubin Becker, MD; and Serge Gauthier, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From St. Justine Hospital and McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Presented in part at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association on Gerontology, Victoria, British Columbia, 1990. Requests for Reprints: Mona Baumgarten, PhD, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania, Nursing Education Building 332R, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6095. Grant Support: By the Fonds de la Recherche en Sante du Quebec and the Alzheimer Society of Canada.


Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1994;120(2):126-132. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-120-2-199401150-00005
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Objective: To estimate the change in depression and physical symptoms during a 1-year period in a group of caregivers for elderly persons with dementia and in a group of comparison participants.

Design: Cohort study with a comparison group.

Setting: Outpatient geriatric assessment unit and ophthalmology service in an acute care hospital.

Participants: 218 close family members of a consecutive sample of patients with dementia and patients having cataract surgery were interviewed to obtain a baseline assessment. Of these, 86 caregivers (family members of patients with dementia) and 95 comparison participants (family members of patients with cataracts) were interviewed again approximately 1 year later.

Main Outcome Measures: Center for Epidemiologic Studies depression scale and Aday and Andersen's 24-item physical symptom checklist.

Results: For the Center for Epidemiologic Studies depression score, the difference between caregivers and comparison participants with respect to change during the 1-year study period was 2.1 (95% CI, 1.0 to 5.2); for physical symptoms, the difference was 0.4 (CI, −0.3 to 1.1). A higher level of behavioral disturbance in the patients with dementia at time 1 and institutionalization of the patient between time 1 and time 2 were predictive of worsening caregiver depression and physical symptoms during the study period. The magnitude and direction of changes in caregiver health varied considerably.

Conclusions: Overall mean changes in depression and physical symptoms during 1 year were small. The observed variability in the individual response to the caregiving situation suggests that future research should focus on the identification of salient prognostic factors.

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