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Caring for a spouse with dementia leaves caregiver at risk

Wives and husbands who attend to mates have greater chance of developing problems themselves

4:48pm, May 17, 2010

Elderly people who care for a spouse who has dementia are at increased risk of developing dementia themselves, a study finds. The stress of attending to a mentally incapacitated spouse may somehow contribute to the added risk, scientists report in the May Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Previous studies have shown that chronic stress leads to increased levels of the hormone cortisol in the body, which can suppress immunity, says study coauthor Peter Rabins, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore who teamed with researchers at Utah State University in Logan to do this study. “It’s long been thought that this might have adverse outcomes psychologically and physiologically.”

Taking care of a spouse with dementia takes a toll in other ways as well, Rabins says. “Caregivers often complain that they lose their friends,” he says, because they don’t have time to socialize. But the biological m

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