Study: Caregivers who put relative in LTC facility get little relief

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Caregivers who place a relative with dementia in a long-term care facilities get no relief from depression or anxiety and may suffer additional emotional trauma, a new study shows.

Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, sponsored by the National Institute on Health, conducted the first study to analyze the emotional turmoil caregivers experience when entrusting a facility to care for their relatives. The study involved 1,222 caregiver-patient pairs, including 180 caregivers who placed their loved one in a facility. These caregivers experienced the same high level of depression and anxiety as if they were in-home caregivers.

Investigators examined conditions that led to placement, the contact between caregivers and their relatives after placement and the health outcomes among caregivers following the placement. Caregivers who placed their spouses in long-term care facilities and those caregivers who visited their relatives most frequently had the most difficult time. More than 50% of the caregivers visited their relatives daily.

The study recommends intervention for caregivers who place their spouses in long-term care facilities, who visit their relatives most frequently, who suffer high depression or have no outside help. The patients in the study all suffered from moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease and had a median age of 80 years old.