Magazine article USA TODAY

Rapid Recuperation for Dementia Caregivers

Magazine article USA TODAY

Rapid Recuperation for Dementia Caregivers

Article excerpt

Home caregivers showed rapid recuperation from depression within three months of the death of their relatives suffering from dementia, and the improvements continued for a year, notes a study of caregivers and the end of life. "Depression often results when a family caregiver who endures high levels of stress is unable to alleviate the suffering of a loved one," observes Richard Schulz of the University of Pittsburgh (Pa.). Knowing that the patient's death marks the end of his or her suffering may help cushion the blow of losing the loved one. More than 60% thought the patient was in pain often or most of the time prior to death and more than 90% thought that death would be a relief to the patient. While caregivers estimated the patient's pain, the actual pain could not be verified.

"The home caregiver may begin to grieve while the patient is still alive. They may psychologically distance themselves and rehearse what life will be like once he or she is gone," Schulz explains. More than two-thirds of the home caregivers attest they felt prepared for their loved one's death and 72% maintain they were somewhat or strongly relieved by the relative's death.

"The study fills important gaps in knowledge about how caregivers experience the end of life and the period immediately following the death of relatives with Alzheimer's disease," declares Sidney Stahl, chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging's Behavioral and Social Research Program, Bethesda, Md. …

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