The study is part of a larger program aimed at reducing abusive behavior in such families, Cooper said. "We need to know exactly what is going on before looking for ways to reduce it," she said.
The incidence of such abuse in the United States is not known, since comparable studies have not been done here, said Beth A. Kallmyer, director of client services at the Alzheimer's Association. But the association "gets a lot of questions about it," Kallmyer said, enough so that it maintains a 24-hour telephone service, at 800-272-3900.
"One of our messages is that people can't do this alone," Kallmyer said. "It is a progressive disease, so that the ability of the person being cared for diminishes with time. That creates great stress."
To help caretakers determine whether the stress has grown too great, the association has provided a caregiver stress test, at www.alz.org/stresscheck, she said.
"We want them to reach out, because if they don't reach out they get burnt out," Kallmyer said.
Another report in the same issue of BMJ dealt with a different matter of concern for the elderly: the effectiveness of specialized geriatric hospital units.
Older people who are cared for in such units have a better chance of returning home after discharge than those treated in conventional hospital facilities, said a report by physicians at the University Hospital of Getafe in Madrid.
A review of 11 studies that compared care provided by acute geriatric units run by specialists with conventional hospital units found elderly patients had a better ability to function back at home and a reduced risk of returning to the units in the three months after discharge.
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