Carers may slow Alzheimer's decline

Family carers play a crucial role in helping those with Alzheimer's disease remain safe at home. The stress on family carers who are caring for a loved one can be as devastating as the disease itself, which is why family caregivers must seek out support.

Q. My husband is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and I am his primary caregiver. The strain is very difficult and some days it doesn't seem like I make a difference.

On the contrary, you are making a big difference and here's proof: A recent study led by Johns Hopkins and Utah State University researchers suggests that a particularly close relationship with caregivers may give people with Alzheimer's disease a marked edge over those without one. The benefits appear to result in retaining mind and brain function over time.

A report on the study, which showed that this emotional connection was as good as some drugs used to treat the disease, is published in the September 2009 'The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences'.

"We've shown that the benefits of having a close caregiver, especially a spouse, may mean the difference between someone with Alzheimer's disease staying at home or going to a nursing facility," says Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.S., the Elizabeth Plank Althouse Professor in Alzheimer's Disease Research and director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Centre.

Of particular interest is the angle of the research, which focused on how carers affect the well-being of people with Alzheimer's disease. Most other studies have looked at the well-being of carers. Of the 167 pairs of Alzheimer's patients and carers studied, patients with close spouses declined the slowest overall. These close couples had scores showing changes over time similar to patients participating in recent clinical trials for FDA-approved Alzheimer's drugs called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.

Knowing that you make such an important difference in the life of your husband should allay your fears. However, that still doesn't make up for the fact that you may be experiencing carer stress, which many other studies have substantiated as well. Please make an effort to get a break once in a while. Can you call a trusted family member or friend to sit with your husband?

Why not consider professional respite care? At Home Instead Senior Care  we employ caring compassionate CAREGivers throughout, Telford, Newport, Bridgnorth and surrounding areas who can serve as a helper to family carers who need even a few hours a week away from home. All CAREGivers are trained to work with older people who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease.