California Groups Studying How To Improve Health of Caregivers
California groups increasingly are studying how caregivers' health is affected by caring for family members with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, HealthyCal reports.
According to HealthyCal, about 590,000 California residents have Alzheimer's, and that number is projected to increase to about 840,000 by 2025.
Research conducted by UC-San Diego has found a link between negative health effects and caregiving for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia. For example, caregivers:
- Have stress levels up to four times higher than their non-caregiving counterparts;
- Are more than 12 times as likely to have significant depression symptoms; and
- Appear to have higher rates of hypertension and risks of cardiovascular disease.
In California, groups -- including nursing homes and long-term care facilities -- are working to identify ways to improve the health of caregivers.
For example, the Southern Caregiver Resource Center has tested and is collecting data on a "behavioral activation" method that emphasizes self-maintenance with Hispanic caregivers. Other groups are considering providing day care for individuals with Alzheimer's to ensure their caregivers can attend training on how to care for themselves.
Meanwhile, researchers at UC-San Diego's Department of Psychiatry are studying how interventions among caregivers can help prevent depression and heart disease. In a clinical trial, which started a year ago and runs through 2019, the researchers are assessing educational programs that aim to:
- Bolster emotional well-being among caregivers;
- Reduce stress among caregivers; and
- Reduce risk for cardiovascular disease among caregivers.
Through the program, caregivers who are at least 55 years old and provide in-home care for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia participate in one of two interventions:
- Six at-home training sessions with a caseworker to learn how to better care for themselves; or
- At-home sessions during which they are provided with some support and printed educational material.
Participants undergo five health evaluations over two years to determine which intervention is more effective.
Lead investigator Brent Mausbach, an associate professor at UC-San Diego, said the study also could help prevent high-cost cases by offering preventive services for caregivers. He said, "Ultimately, if the caregiver doesn't get help, that has implications for the health care system and insurers," adding, "Now they have a condition that can be costly and if we can prevent that, it's a positive win from a lot of stakeholders' perspectives" (Kritz, HealthyCal, 11/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.