Stress Relief For Dementia Caregivers Who Use Adult Day Services
May 24, 2013

Caregivers Of Relatives With Dementia Are More Relaxed With Professional Assistance

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

When adult day services (ADS) are provided to older dementia patients, the relatives that typically care for those individuals are less stressed and generally in better moods, according to a new report published Thursday in the journal The Gerontologist.

As part of the study, Penn State University (PSU) researchers conducted eight daily telephone interviews on consecutive days with 173 family caregivers of dementia patients who also use ADS — services which provide some social and health-related services to adults in need of supervised care outside the home during daytime hours.

“Caregivers who live with and care for someone with dementia can experience extraordinary amounts of stress,” professor Steven Zarit, the head of the State College, Pennsylvania-based university´s human development and family studies department, said in a statement. “The use of adult day services appears to provide caregivers with a much-needed break that can possibly protect them from the negative health effects caused by chronic stress.”

During some of the interview days, some of the dementia patients attended ADS programs, while on other days they spend most or all of the day with the relative serving as their primary caregivers. Zarit´s team asked those caretakers about both stress-inducing and positive events they had been exposed to, as well as their mood and their overall health throughout the course of the day, the researchers explained.

“Multiple daily reports allow us to compare each person to himself or herself on ADS and non-ADS days,” the PSU professor said. “We can then assess if each person shows improvement in stressor exposure, mood and health symptoms on ADS days compared to non-ADS days. This comparison provides a more fundamental indicator of improvement than how that individual might compare to a group average.”

Zarit and his colleagues then analyzed the results of those telephone interviews using multi-level statistical models, and they discovered that caregivers were exposed to fewer care-related stressors and reported an increased number of positive experiences during days when the family members they cared for use ADS. In addition, the caretakers said that they were exposed to fewer non-care related stressors on those days.

“ADS days were associated with a small increase in non-care stressors, yet caregivers reacted to high levels of non-care stressors with less depressive mood on ADS days than non-ADS days, so we conclude that the use of ADS has a buffering effect on the relation of non-care stressors on depressive mood,” Zarit said.

“Overall, our findings demonstrate that stressors on caregivers are partly lowered and mood is improved on days when their relatives attend adult day service programs, which may provide protection against the negative effects of chronic stress associated with caregiving,” he added.

In addition to Zarit, postdoctoral scholar Kyungmin Kim, research associate Elia E. Femia, professor of human development and family studies David M. Almeida, and associate professor of biobehavioral health Laura C. Klein are credited as authors on the study. The research was funded by The National Institute on Aging.