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Keywords:

  • Alzheimer’s disease;
  • dementia;
  • stroke;
  • caregiving;
  • carer;
  • spouses;
  • depression;
  • health;
  • illness trajectory;
  • longitudinal

Emotional and physical health of spouse caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and stroke

Providing care for a cognitively impaired spouse can adversely affect caregivers’ health. It is not known how early in the caregiver’s ‘career’ emotional and physical health deteriorates. The progressive deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may have different effects on caregivers’ health when compared with the potential recovery following a stroke. An exploratory study was conducted with 42 couples, equally divided among early phase AD, ischaemic stroke after hospital discharge, and well controls. Couples were evaluated at baseline (time 1), 6 months (time 2) and 1 year (time 3). At time 1, depression was significantly higher in AD and stroke caregivers when compared to controls. Over time, depression increased significantly for AD caregivers with 21% evidencing moderate to severe depression at time 1 and 50% at time 3. For stroke caregivers there was a significant interaction effect with race: white stroke caregivers’ depression increased over time while African American stroke caregivers’ depression decreased. Physical health was not significantly different for the three groups and remained stable over time. Cognitive and functional impairment levels of care recipients were significantly related to stroke caregivers’ but not AD caregivers’ depression. Long-term counselling and support to family caregivers is advocated.