Subjects: Behavioral health
Spouses who care for a husband or wife that has dementia are 6 times more likely to develop the condition themselves, according to study by scientists at Utah State, Johns Hopkins and Duke.
To reach this conclusion, the scientists looked at 1,221 married couples who were at least 65 years old. The subjects had been enrolled in the Cache County (Utah) Memory Study, which has followed more than 900 people with dementia since the study began in 1995.
The six-fold increase in dementia rivals that associated with a well-known gene variant, APOE ε4, according to the scientists. The risk was found to be present even after the scientists accounted for socioeconomic status and other factors that are known to increase the risk of dementia.
Researchers have studied this general topic for years, although most of the earlier studies focused on emotional distress experienced by caretakers rather than any impact on the cognitive abilities of spouses who cared for persons with dementia.
The scientists suspect that stress associated with caregiving is driving their findings.
“Caregiving has positive aspects, as well as negative ones,” Peter Rabin, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University told BurrillReport. “If we can boost the positive aspects and reduce the negative ones, we may be able to reduce a caregiver’s risk of developing dementia.”