The burden often associated with informal caregiving for patients with dementia is associated with negative effects on health, both physiologically and in terms of caregiver cognition. There is wide variation in the level of burden experienced by dementia caregivers. To better understand caregiver burden, it is thus important to understand the factors associated with level of burden.
In the current study, we collected carer burden and putative associated factors at baseline, 6 and 12 months. Hierarchical regression was used to assess the impact of these factors on caregiver burden. We assessed self-reported carer burden, patient behavioural and safety issues, and level of difficulty associated with providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADL). Patients’ age was also recorded, and trained nurses assessed patient cognitive performance using the quick mild cognitive impairment screen.
At baseline, patients’ age, cognition and ADLs were associated with burden, and safety and challenging behaviour were both significantly associated with burden independent of the other factors. Change in burden was associated with change in carer-reported safety at 6-month follow-up, and with change in safety and change in carer-reported challenging behaviours at 12-month follow-up.
Safety issues and challenging behaviours are associated with carer burden, even after accounting for cognitive and functional impairment in the person with dementia. As dementia progresses, monitoring these factors may help to inform stress-management strategies for caregivers.