1997 IPA/Bayer Research Awards in Psychogeriatrics. Associations between dysfunctional behaviors, gender, and burden in spousal caregivers of cognitively impaired older adults.
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Reductions in healthcare spending and current demographic trends will result in increasing demands to care for aging relatives, especially those with cognitive impairment (e.g., Alzheimer's disease). Taking care of older individuals with cognitive impairment can be very challenging and burdensome. Caregiver burden is associated with negative outcomes such as caregiver depression and increased likelihood of patient institutionalization. One hundred eleven patients and their spousal caregivers were studied using a pre-post design. All subjects received a comprehensive medical intervention that included medical management of patients' problems and education of caregivers. We examined changes in patients' function and caregiver burden. At follow-up, patients' cognition and independence in activities of daily living had continued to deteriorate whereas their mood was improved. Regression analyses showed that changes in caregiver burden were positively associated with changes in the frequency of dysfunctional behaviors but not with changes in cognition. Gender was also related to changes in caregiver burden; male caregivers were more likely than female caregivers to report reductions in burden at follow-up. These data suggest medical interventions may provide some relief to caregivers of cognitively impaired older patients, but more research is required to identify the causal agents of this effect.
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