Caregivers of family members with dementia who use the part-time services of adult daycare have fewer emotional fluctuations, and this may protect the caregivers’ health, according to new research at the College of Health and Human Development at Pennsylvania State.
The study, published in the journal Health Psychology, investigated the emotional fluctuations in caregivers of dementia patients, including the associations between daily negative emotions (such as depression and anger) and the use of adult daycare, daily experiences, and other caregiving characteristics.
“Specifically, it shows that people who use more days of adult day care have fewer day-to-day intrinsic emotional fluctuations,” said Dr. Steven H. Zarit, distinguished professor of human development and family studies.
“These fluctuations represent individual differences in how emotionally reactive people are after controlling for the events of the day. Emotional reactivity has been linked to increased illness in other studies. Reduced emotional liability due to adult day care use may be protective of caregivers’ health.”
For the study, researchers asked 173 family caregivers of individuals with dementia to report their experiences for eight days. Statistical models were then used to show connections between daily stressors and changes in affect, and to test hypotheses on connections between daycare use, daily experiences, and emotional fluctuations.
The findings revealed that, when the total number of daycare days was greater than average, there was a stabilizing effect on caregivers’ emotions, specifically with regard to negative affect (negative emotions after one has failed or done poorly at a task).
Better sleep quality was associated with less fluctuation in anger; and younger age and more years of education were associated with less fluctuation in daily depression.
“We know that people who are more emotionally labile — who have greater fluctuations — are more at risk of developing health problems when they are in stressful situations,” said first author Yin Liu, a doctoral candidate.
“We examined the magnitude of caregivers’ daily emotional lability in negative affect, and associations with daily experiences, caregiving characteristics, and whether getting relief from caregiving stressors by an adult daycare service program makes a difference in emotional lability.”
Specifically, there was a stabilizing effect on the caregivers’ daily feelings of depression and anger. The results suggest that getting more days of relief from full-time caregiving help people control ups and downs in their emotions.
“In a previous study, we showed that levels of depression and anger were decreased on days the caregiver’s relative attended adult day services. Here we show more emotional stability as well,” Liu added. Both dimensions of emotion play a role in health.
Source: Pennsylvania State