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Caring for a Dementia Patient Raises Risk of Memory Issues

- Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An older person who cares for a spouse with dementia is also at an increased risk of developing problems with attention and memory, according to a new review of studies.

This is because the spousal caregiver likely shared lifestyle risk factors with the person with dementia, and undergoes ongoing stress from caring for the person.

Researchers from the University Of Washington School Of Medicine reviewed more than 100 studies that examined the cognitive health of older adults who cared for a family member with dementia, with the majority of the subjects being spouses. They found that these caregivers have more trouble with attention and memory, also known as cognition, than people who don't have to care for a family member with dementia.

The review of the studies showed that those caregivers had a higher risk of cognitive decline or dementia than people who do not have to care for someone with dementia. This could be due to a number of factors, including depression, loneliness, sleep problems, social isolation, exercise, diet and even obesity.

People who are caring for a spouse with dementia may themselves be at risk for cognitive problems which, in turn, will not only negatively influence their quality of life, but may reduce their ability to provide the necessary care for their spouse.

Most care-recipients prefer to be cared for in their homes, and, by remaining in their homes, health care costs are reduced greatly, therefore, often spouses of end up providing care.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

People with dementia are not the only ones who have health problems – a spouse who cares for them are also at risk for attention and memory problems.

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