Mental Health Problems Complicate Alzheimer’s Caregiving

New research finds that being a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient is especially burdensome for people who suffer from depressive symptoms.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland analyzed the psychological stress of family caregivers during a three-year period following the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The study constitutes part of the ALSOVA project involving 236 persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and their family caregivers. The ALSOVA project is a multidisciplinary research project ongoing at the University of Eastern Finland and involving researchers from the fields of neurology, nursing science, health economics, and psychology.

Participants in the study were voluntarily recruited from the memory disorder clinics of three Finnish central and university hospitals. The patients participating in the study were at the onset diagnosed with a very mild or mild form of Alzheimer’s disease.

Investigators discovered the heaviest psychological stress was experienced by family caregivers who at the time of Alzheimer’s diagnosis suffered from depressive symptoms.

“The occurrence of even mild depressive symptoms predicted a psychological load on the family caregiver irrespective of, for example, the progression of the disease,” said researcher Tarja Välimäki of the Department of Nursing Science.

Investigators also found that the psychological stress of spousal caregivers was greater than that of other family caregivers at the beginning of the study. The spousal stress was also found to have increased during the follow-up.

According to the study researchers, the results suggest that it is wise to pay attention also to the family caregiver’s health at the time of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

“A depression inquiry carried out by, for example, a memory nurse would make it possible to recognize family caregivers who need enhanced support.”

The results were published in Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology.

Source: University of Eastern Finland/EurekAlert