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Caregivers at risk for health problems
Date:11/28/2011

When a person with mild cognitive impairment is agitated or restless, caregivers can expect to find they are more edgy as well. According to research conducted at Virginia Tech, the more a caregiver's day is disrupted by the unsettled behaviors of their loved one, the more they find themselves unable to meet or balance their own home and family work loads. This heightens the effect of elevated stress levels on their own bodies, placing caregivers at risk for current and future health problems.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a transitional stage between normal age-related cognitive changes and early stages of Alzheimer's disease, is characterized by changes in memory that may not interfere with everyday activities but can cause frustration and anxiety among persons with the impairment and their family members.

Results of the team's research, reported in the November Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, particularly note the involvement of rising cortisol levels in caregiver samples. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body as the outside stress it is subjected to increases.

"Providing support for a relative encountering cognitive difficulties often requires significant changes in everyday roles and responsibilities," said lead author Tina Savla (http://www.humandevelopment.vt.edu/savla.html), assistant professor of human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. "These changes take a toll on family relationships and psychological health, and carry consequences for the care partner's physical health."

According to Savla, "Dealing with the day-to-day issues of living with a person with MCI can allow little time for recovery and may tax one's hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system. The dysregulation in this system likely contributes to illnesses by further distres
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Contact: Jean Elliott
elliottj@vt.edu
540-231-5915
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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