This post was originally published on this site Caring for a partner or spouse with a new diagnosis of Alzheimer\u2019s or related dementia is associated with a 30% increase in depressive symptoms, compared to older adults who don\u2019t have a spouse with dementia \u2014 and these symptoms are sustained over time, a new University of Michigan study found. This sustained depression over time is important because partners are often caregivers for many years, said Melissa Harris, a doctoral student in the U-M School of Nursing and the study\u2019s lead author. Research suggests that depression can spike after a traumatic event \u2014 cancer diagnosis, accident, death, etc. \u2014 but that most people often return to their previous emotional health. That didn\u2019t happen with the dementia caregivers. Harris and U-M nursing professors Geoffrey Hoffman and Marita Titler analyzed Health and Retirement Study data from 16,650 older adults \u2014 those without a partner diagnosis of dementia, those with a partner whose diagnosis was within the past two years and those with a partner whose diagnosis was older than two years. The U-M study differs from previous studies in a couple of important ways, Harris says. She and her colleagues looked at depressive symptoms over time (rather than a snapshot in time) and at the number of reported depressive symptoms, as opposed to only diagnoses of major depression \u2014 a threshold that\u2019s rarely met. Depression can range from severe and persistent to mild and temporary, but even the latter can significantly reduce quality of life. The average number of depressive symptoms reported by older adults with partners without dementia was 1.2. People whose partners were diagnosed within the last two years reported an additional .31 symptoms (27% increase) and those with partners diagnosed more than two years ago reported an additional .38 symptoms (33% increase). Researchers adjusted for sociodemographic, health and health behavior differences in partners. \u201cThis may not seem like a huge increase in depressive symptoms, but think about feeling depressed or feeling restless everyday. That can mean a lot in the life of a caregiver,\u201d Harris said. The increase in symptoms is also important because previous research conducted by Hoffman, assistant professor of nursing and senior author on the current study, found that similar changes in depressive symptoms was associated with a 30% increase of fall risk. \u201cWe know that falls are another common debilitating outcome for this group, so the change in depressive symptoms we saw could also imply changes in a caregiver\u2019s physical and functional health,\u201d Harris said. \u201cWhether it\u2019s carers protecting family members from injury, as we found in prior work, or a spouse\u2019s dementia status affecting the carer, as we found in this study, we have seen that family members deeply affect each other\u2019s health, so clinical and supportive care must orient more around the needs of the family,\u201d Hoffman said. The social isolation caused by the pandemic only adds to the caregiver\u2019s burden. \u201cThe pandemic is adversely affecting family caregivers because of social isolation, and also because resources have been canceled or now have limited access,\u201d Harris said. \u201cMany caregivers have said they already felt socially isolated and that the pandemic has just amplified those feelings.\u201d Most people in the early stages of dementia still live at home and are cared for by unpaid family members, primarily partners and spouses, Harris said. The takeaway for caregivers? \u201cIt\u2019s so important to ask for advice and support early on,\u201d Harris said. \u201cWe saw these increases within two years and they were sustained for two years and beyond. Caregivers should remember that their health is just as important as their partner\u2019s and substantially impacts the health of the person with dementia.