Spousal caregivers of dementia patients are more likely to develop dementia themselves

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People who care for a spouse with dementia are six times more likely to develop dementia themselves than spouses of people without dementia, according to new research.

Researchers at Utah State University followed 1,221 married couples for 12 years to determine the effects of dementia on a spousal caregiver. During the study, 125 husbands, 70 wives and 30 couples developed dementia. After making some statistical adjustments, researchers determined that men are 11.9 times more likely to develop dementia while caring for a wife with dementia. Women are 3.7 times more likely to develop dementia when caring for their spouse, according to the report. Having a spouse with dementia is associated with a sixfold risk for dementia, they concluded.

It is unclear if the added risk for developing dementia is a result of caregiver stress or shared environment, according to researchers. More studies are needed to identify which factors contribute to the increased risk. The study is available online, and will appear in the May edition of the Journal of The American Geriatrics Society.