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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
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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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