Elderly caregivers at risk for cognitive decline, study says

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Elderly caregivers at risk for cognitive decline, study says
Elderly caregivers at risk for cognitive decline, study says
When evaluating the cognitive abilities of a newly admitted long-term or post-acute care resident, it is worth asking the resident if he or she has served as a primary caregiver to a spouse suffering from dementia.

New research suggests that individuals who have acted as a primary caregiver for a spouse with dementia face a greater risk for cognitive problems themselves, especially dementia, according to a new study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine reviewed previous caregiver studies to reach their findings.

“Spouse caregivers are extremely important because most care recipients prefer to be cared for in their homes, and, by remaining in their homes, healthcare costs are reduced greatly,” said study author Peter P. Vitaliano, Ph.D.

Vitaliano and colleagues identified several potential contributing factors to the cognitive decline of caregivers. They can suffer from depression, loneliness, social isolation and any number of sleep difficulties. They may get less exercise and consume a poorer diet, which can lead to obesity, difficulty controlling insulin levels, and muscle and joint inflammation.

And just as with their non-caregiver counterparts, the researchers concluded that caregivers likely need help managing their psychological distress, as well as help with other healthy behaviors such as diet and exercise.
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