Dementia Caregiving Stressful, Isolating

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 24 (UPI) — Family members who care for a relative with dementia often experience stress that can lead to mental breakdowns and depression, U.S. researchers say.

Steven Zarit of Pennsylvania State University and colleagues studied the 15 most common stressors for caregivers — including financial strain, patient behaviors and frequency of help from family and friends.

Zarit said some 4 million people nationwide care for a family member with dementia, often for 5 to 7 years, but some spend 15 to 20 years as caregivers for relatives.

The study of 67 people, published in the journal Aging & Mental Health, showed all of the study participants experienced radically different types and amounts of stress, making assistance to caregivers more of a challenge.

“The majority of caregivers are living at home, with little or no help,” Zarit said in a statement. “The family has to pay the physical, emotional and financial cost of the caring, which can be staggering. When the caregiver gets overwhelmed, it raises the probability of a breakdown in the care situation.”

Intervention programs are expensive and often ineffective. For example, many programs focus on only one stress such as patient behavior, which may cause stress to some and not to others, Zarit said.

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