Spouses of dementia patients at higher risk of developing same condition
The husbands and wives of dementia sufferers are six times more likely to develop the condition themselves, researchers have found, suggesting the stress of looking after them may be a factor.
Stress and depression linked with watching a spouse deteriorate could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer and other forms of the condition, according to the study on 1,221 married couples who had been married for an average of 49 years.
Husbands also appear to be at higher risk than wives although this could be down to chance, researchers said.
Experts from Utah State University in the US analysed data from couples where dementia was present and compared it with couples where dementia did not develop.
The study team from Utah State University spent 12 years performing the study, after which 200 people aged 65 or older were diagnosed with dementia.
A total of 125 cases of dementia only in the husband were diagnosed, 70 only in the wife, and 30 where both spouses were diagnosed (60 people).
The researchers believe the emotional stress of watching the mental decline of a loved one could be at least partly to blame. In addition, dementia usually strikes later in life, making hte psychological burden heavier for ageing spouses.
The authors concluded: “The chronic and often severe stress associated with dementia care-giving may exert substantial risk for the development of dementia in spouse care-givers.
“Having a loved one with dementia is stressful regardless of age, but the burden for spouses may be even greater because of close emotional ties to their partner, their own medical comorbidity, greater risk for functional limitations, and greater likelihood of fatigue with physical exertion.”