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 "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too" 
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Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:46 pm
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Post "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
This news story will be of most interest to those married to someone with dementia. An excerpt (from the very end of the article):

An expert unaffiliated with the new study called the finding “compelling,” but not necessarily surprising. “Caregiving is very stressful,” said Dr. Gary W. Small, director of the University of California-Los Angeles, Center on Aging... “Studies have shown that caregivers for dementia patients have a high risk for major clinical depression. And there has been a study that showed that people who are prone to stress are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s.”



http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36975938/ns/health-aging/

If spouse has dementia, your risk rises, too
Stress of caregiving may be to blame for 6-fold increase, researchers say

By Linda Carroll
msnbc.com contributor
updated 5:19 a.m. PT, Thurs., May 6, 2010

Being married to someone with dementia may sharply increase your own risk of developing the condition, a new study shows.

Utah researchers found that seniors had six times the risk of developing dementia if they lived with a spouse who had been diagnosed with the condition, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. And the increased risk was substantially higher for husbands than for wives.

“The good news is that most of the spouses did not develop dementia,” said the study’s lead author, Maria Norton, an associate professor in the department of Family, Consumer and Human Development at Utah State University, in Logan. “But this does alert us to the increased risk for some of them. We need to be taking care of the caregiver and finding ways to maximize the positives of care giving.”

The study followed 1,221 couples for 12 years. All 2,442 study volunteers were at least 65 years old and free of dementia at the outset. By the end of the study, 255 of the seniors had developed dementias, two-thirds of which were Alzheimer’s disease.

Though the study did not explicitly ask whether spouses had taken on the role of caregiver, Norton says it’s safe to assume they did.

She and her colleagues were so surprised by their findings that they ran their numbers again, this time accounting for the spouses’ ages, genders and whether they had a form of the APOE gene that raises the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In their new analysis, they also factored in socio-economic status, which can be a surrogate for shared environmental risk factors, such as access to medical care, diet and exercise.

The number barely budged: having a spouse with dementia still resulted in a six-fold increased risk of developing the condition. And the news was far worse for men: increase was almost 12-fold, as compared to a four-fold increase in women.

Norton and her colleagues don’t yet know what is at the root of the hike in risk. It’s entirely possible that there are environmental factors that we don’t yet know about, Norton said. “Controlling for economic status is not the same as controlling for the 5,000 things that people can share,” she said.

Finding the reason for the increased risk of dementia will be the focus for future research.

“We need more studies to determine how much of this association is due to caregiver stress and how much of it might be due to a shared environment,” she said. “It’s possible that we’ll find that there is something that the caregivers who developed dementia had in common, such as a particular personality trait or their coping styles. Or, maybe it isn’t as much about the caregiver so much as it is about the spouse who gets dementia first: how rapidly they decline, whether they have delusions. Not all dementias are the same. Some might be more stressful to the caregiver.”

An expert unaffiliated with the new study called the finding “compelling,” but not necessarily surprising.

“Caregiving is very stressful,” said Dr. Gary W. Small, director of the University of California-Los Angeles, Center on Aging and director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Division at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Studies have shown that caregivers for dementia patients have a high risk for major clinical depression. And there has been a study that showed that people who are prone to stress are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s.”


Sun May 09, 2010 1:22 am
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Well, now, isn't THAT special!! Happy Mother's Day. :(


Sun May 09, 2010 11:38 am
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Quote:
it might be due to a shared environment
I think this is certainly worth looking into. Seems like there isn't as much searching for a cause as searching for a cure. Less profitable, maybe?


Sun May 09, 2010 11:41 am
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Yes, that article perked us all up, I'm sure. Interesting, but very, very scary. A big heads up to take better care of ourselves, huh? Maybe I should double my anti depressants! :wink:


Mon May 10, 2010 8:59 am
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Someone emailed to let me know that the research study on which this news article is based is available online at no charge. It's at:

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi- ... 2/PDFSTART

Here are a few points from the research study I found interesting:

* "One possible mechanism is the detrimental effects of chronic stress on the hippocampus, a brain region responsible for memory."

* "After the death of a care recipient, there was further deterioration on episodic and working memory but improvement in attentional resources, suggesting 'the possibility of reversing certain cognitive deficits by reducing caregiver stress.'"

* "Given that female caregivers are significantly more likely to report poor well-being, depression, and anxiety than male caregivers, whether the effect of having a spouse with dementia would be greater for women than men was explored."

* "Having a loved one with dementia is stressful regardless of age, but the burden for spouses may be even greater because of close emotional ties to their partner, their own medical comorbidity, greater risk for functional limitations, and greater likelihood of fatigue with physical exertion."

* "The data also show that many exposed spouses are not affected."

Robin


Thu May 13, 2010 6:00 pm
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Again, it is an interesting study and I thank you for bringing it to our attention---depressing though the results may be. As a researcher, you know that, even though they are presuming stress to be the causative agent, there is still only an associative correlation between spouse caregiving and dementia, not cause and effect. The report points out that shared environment could also be a factor, which could mean heavy metals in the water supply or other types of pollutants.

It is surprising that men have such an increased risk and that perhaps inability to reduce stress by discussing it [or admitting it] could be a big problem for them. Of course, there could also be a difference in how their bodies handle environmental contaminants. I will continue to follow this. Thank you again, Robin, for keeping us informed. --Pat


Thu May 13, 2010 6:24 pm
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Post Re: "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
A short blurb about this research was published in a recent "Johns Hopkins Health Alert." This was interesting: (never heard of homogamy before)

Bottom line: The physical and mental burden of caregiving, the emotional stress associated with watching a loved one struggle with dementia, shared environmental risks like similar diets, or homogamy (similar individuals are more likely to marry) are among the possible reasons. More research is needed to pinpoint the cause and find the best way of keeping one spouse from sharing the fate of their husband or wife.


Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:34 pm
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Post Re: "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
Well, didn't THAT just make my day. Nan


Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:42 pm
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Post Re:
robin wrote:
"The data also show that many exposed spouses are not affected."
Well, thank goodness for that!

I can't help but think that those who are affected have cut off all outside interests during the illness of their spouse and find re-joining the world extremely difficult. I have some examples in my family.

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Leone Carroll (75); wife of Dale (75) who passed away March 23, 2011


Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:11 pm
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Post Re: "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
Homogamy - never heard that before either. My husband and I are so different in some ways that at least we'll have that going for us if one of us develops dementia! :P Lynn

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Lynn, daughter of 89 year old dad dx with possiblity of LBD, CBD, PSP, FTD, ALS, Vascular Dementia, AD, etc., died Nov. 30, 2010 after living in ALF for 18 months.


Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:09 pm
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Post Re: "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
I think this really sends a message to those of us caring for a spouse that we need to take the time and EFFORT to vent, laugh, get out and take any time we can to step away from Lewy land. I know from first-hand experience that sometimes even if you want to get away you can't but maybe with this compelling news we should all try harder and just do it. (Hmm, clever phrase). Sher

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Sher (53) married 29 years to Ken (66) who was diagnosed with LBD in 2008, but it most likely began many years before.


Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:02 am
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Post Re: "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
I don't know about this study. I read this article when it came out this week and it raised a few red flags for me. Now if enviroment and diet could be linked to dementia, they might be on to something there. Or if they could prove that LBD is a stress diathesis condition (genes + enviroment of stress) they might be on to something...but to suggest that the caregiver might be predisposed due to stress is just not working in my mind. We all have stress...all sorts of stress...always have had it...probably always will. The majority of people are strong and hold up fine....it my hurt...it may nearly drive you off your nut...but we survive to go on to some other battle.

I just don't think every caregiver out there would be susceptible to dementia due to stress of caring for a dementia patient....do cancer care givers get dementia or cancer or heart attacks? Parents who have cared for autistic children for decades..are they predisposed to dementia or something else??? Too many unanswered questions for me.

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~~Debra, 52, wife to Chris, 64 DX Vascular Dementia 9/10; Alz 10 or 11/2010; Pseudo Dementia 01/11; LBD in 03/11..Was at home until 4/29, 2011, now in a Alz fac./dementia unit.
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Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:35 pm
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Post Re: "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
This is very interesting, and it is a subject that needs further study, for sure.

It seems quite reasonable to me that persons living with someone diagnosed with dementia (or who did so for long periods in the past) would have a higher rate of diagnosed dementia. If your dad had dementia and now your mother is showing symptoms, wouldn't you be much quicker on the draw this time in getting her looked at, diagnosed, and treated? But if dad had died years ago in a car accident (no caregiving involved) and mom is now exhibiting some odd behaviors, might that be ignored or glossed over for a longer peiord of time?

I would think the people with close personal experience with dementia would be more likely to get an early diagnosis that people whose family members have no experience with the disease.

In a 12-year time span (the period of this research) it would be interesting to differentiate between the actual rate of the disease vs how long it took to diagnose. The caregiver group could look like they have a higher incidence simply because they get better/earlier diagnosis.

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Jeanne, 68 cared for husband Coy, 86. RBD for 30+ years; LDB since 2003, Coy at home, in early stage, until death in 2012


Sat Mar 26, 2011 2:22 pm
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Post Re: "If spouse has dementia, your risk rises too"
Excellent point. Nan


Sat Mar 26, 2011 4:29 pm
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