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Kessler Foundation scientists report negative impact of long-term caregiving on cognition
Date:11/13/2012

stroke caregiving to diminished health and functioning, but is largely limited by cross-sectional methods. The purpose of this study is to assess whether stroke caregivers experience greater declines in cognitive functioning over time relative to their non-caregiving peers.

Methods: Data are from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a longitudinal study of a nationally representative cohort of older adults. This analysis uses HRS data collected between 1996 and 2008 from couples living in the same household. Stroke caregivers are defined as persons whose spouse reported experiencing a stroke and functioning limitations (N=333). Non-caregivers are persons whose spouse had neither a history of stroke nor functioning limitations attributable to another chronic condition (N=992). Cognitive functioning is assessed in five domains: working memory, semantic memory, and episodic memory, time orientation, and learning. Growth curve models are used to estimate differences by caregiving duration for each domain controlling for gender, race, and the time-varying effects of age, income, wealth, perceived health, and depressive symptoms.

Results: Preliminary analyses reveal that caregivers experience significantly steeper declines over time relative to non-caregivers in episodic memory, working memory, and learning. Significant variation in the effect for caregiving between individuals is largely independent of age, but is accounted for by individual differences in background, socioeconomic status, and well-being for learning and episodic memory but not for working memory.

Implications: The findings from this study suggest that the demands of providing long-term assistance to a spouse who has suffered a stroke increases cognitive decline over time.


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Contact: Carolann Murphy
CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org
973-324-8382
Kessler Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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