Alzheimer's, dementia, cognition, ageing, caregiving, matching, sampling, stress
Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. The Atlantic Philanthropies. Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Health Research Board. Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: Caregiving for a person with dementia is frequently used to model the impact of chronic stress on health, including cognitive functioning. However, the prevalence of typically healthier, self-selecting non-caregiving control groups could contribute to a picture of poorer caregiver performance and overstate the negative effects of stress. We investigated differences in cognitive performance between dementia caregivers and two groups of non-caregivers recruited using different sampling methods.
DESIGN AND METHODS: We compared cognitive function and psychological wellbeing among 252 spousal dementia caregivers with demographically matched non-caregiving control groups drawn from (1) a population study and (2) a self-selecting sample. Comparable cognitive measures included immediate and delayed recall, processing speed reaction time and verbal fluency.
RESULTS: Caregiver and non-caregiver performance was comparable on most cognitive domains. However, caregivers outperformed both control groups on processing speed (p ≤ .05) and reaction time (p ≤ .05), despite having higher levels of stress and depression (ps < .001). Furthermore, caregivers had significantly better free recall than self-selecting controls (p < .001).
IMPLICATIONS: Our results, overall, do not support the idea that caregiving is associated with stress-induced cognitive deficits. Rather, the trend toward better caregiver performance is consistent with the healthy caregiver hypothesis.
Cognitive Psychology | Health Psychology | Psychology
O'Sullivan M, Brennan S, Lawlor BA, Hannigan C, Robertson IH, Pertl MM. Cognitive functioning among cognitively intact dementia caregivers compared to matched self-selected and population controls. Aging & Mental Health. 2018;1-8.
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