Depression Worsens Over Time for Dementia Caregivers, Study Suggests



Caring for a partner or spouse with a new dementia diagnosis is associated with worsening, and long-lasting, depressive symptoms, according to a new study that underscores the toll caregiving can have on families facing an FTD diagnosis.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M), identified a 30% increase in depressive symptoms in older adults caring for a partner recently diagnosed with a condition that causes dementia, as compared to those without a partner diagnosis.

This sustained depression over time is important because partners are often caregivers for many years, lead study author Melissa Harris, a doctoral student at U-M, said in a news release. While research suggests that depression can spike after a traumatic event, such as a serious medical diagnosis or accident, most people often return to their previous emotional health, a trend that was not observed in the study.

Harris and fellow researchers also point to the effect depression can have on caregivers’ overall health, which may be compounded by social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, the findings emphasize the need for caregivers to be mindful of their own well-being and to ask for support after a loved one is diagnosed.

“It’s so important to ask for advice and support early on,” Harris said in the release. “We saw these increases within two years [of diagnosis], and they were sustained for two years and beyond. Caregivers should remember that their health is just as important as their partner’s and substantially impacts the health of the person with dementia.”

Caregivers experiencing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic can visit the AFTD website for information and resources, as well as coping and mindfulness tools.

To read more about the study, click here.