OBJECTIVE: Many patients with dementia who live at home would require nursing home care if they did not have the assistance of family caregivers. However, caregiving sometimes has adverse health consequences for caregivers, including very high rates of depression. The goal of this study was to determine the patient and caregiver characteristics associated with depression among caregivers of patients with dementia.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.
PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Five thousand six hundred and twenty-seven patients with moderate to advanced dementia and their primary caregivers upon enrollment in the Medicare Alzheimer's Disease Demonstration (MADDE) at 8 locations in the United States.
MEASUREMENTS: Caregiver depression was defined as 6 or more symptoms on the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale. Patient characteristics measured included ethnicity and other demographic characteristics, income, activities of daily living (ADL) function, Mini-Mental Status Exam (MMSE) score, and behavioral problems. Caregiver characteristics measured included demographic characteristics, relationship to the patient, hours spent caregiving, and ADL and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) function. We used χ2 and t tests to measure the bivariate relationships between patient and caregiver predictors and caregiver depression. We used logistic regression to determine the independent predictors of caregiver depression.
RESULTS: Thirty-two percent of caregivers reported 6 or more symptoms of depression and were classified as depressed. Independent patient predictors of caregiver depression included younger age (odds ratio [OR], 1.91; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.33 to 2.76 in patients less than 65 years compared to patients over 85 years), white (OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.18 to 1.99) and Hispanic ethnicity (OR, 2.50; 95% CI, 1.69 to 3.70) compared to black ethnicity, education (OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.33 for those with less than a high school education), ADL dependence (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.26 to 1.90 for patients dependent in 2 or more ADL compared to patients dependent in no ADL), and behavioral disturbance, particularly angry or aggressive behavior (OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.27 to 1.69 for patients with angry or aggressive behavior). Independent caregiver predictors of depression included low income (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.18 to 1.77 for less than $10,000/per year, compared to >$20,000 per year), the relationship to the patient (OR, 2.73; 95% CI, 1.31 to 5.72 for wife, compared to son of male patient), hours spent caregiving (OR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.51 to 2.38 for 40 to 79 hours/week compared to less than 40 hours/week), and functional dependence (OR, 2.53; 95% CI, 2.13 to 3.01 for ADL dependent compared to IADL independent).
CONCLUSION: Caregiver depression is a complex process, influenced by ethnicity as well as diverse patient and caregiver characteristics. Efforts to identify and treat caregiver depression will need to be multidisciplinary and focus on multiple risk factors simultaneously.