The primary caregivers for people with dementia are usually family members, mostly partners. A recent study shows how dementia can take a toll on their health as well. Published in the Journal of Gerontology, the study found that spouses or partners of people with newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s or dementia are 30 percent more likely to develop depressive symptoms when compared to older adults who do not have partners with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Worryingly, these symptoms persist for a long period of time. Depression in partners is not uncommon after a diagnosis of a chronic disease like cancer. It usually lessens over time. But in the case of dementia, these symptoms persisted over a long period. The findings are based on the Health and Retirement Study. Data was collected from 16,650 older adults. This included people without a partner diagnosis of dementia as well as those with the diagnosis. The latter category included people whose partners were diagnosed within the last 2 years and before.
The team looked at depressive symptoms over a period of time, giving attention to all reported symptoms instead of only focusing on major depression. On average, older adults without a partner diagnosis of dementia reported 1.2 depressive symptoms. Those who had partners diagnosed with dementia in the last two years reported an additional 0.31 symptoms, which was an increase of 27 percent. These symptoms further increased by .38 in those with partners diagnosed with dementia for more than two years. This was a 33 percent increase. Given the high numbers and persistent depressive symptoms, the researchers advised seeking support from an early stage.