Caregivers Learning to Manage Illness also Helped in Coping with Death

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Original goal was easing burden of caring for relative with dementia

August 3, 2006 – An intervention aimed at preventing depression and easing the burden of caring for a relative with dementia also helps to prevent complicated grief and depression following the death of the loved one, according to a University of Pittsburgh-led study. The findings could help the millions of American families caring for relatives with dementia. Approximately 4.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease live at home with 75 percent cared for by family members.

The study, published in the August issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, was initially designed to establish methods for preventing depression and increasing coping skills during the caregiving process, sought to determine who among caregivers were at risk for complicated grief and depression after their care-recipients died.

Surprisingly, the interventions aimed at helping the caregiver cope while the care-recipient was living also helped the caregiver cope with the recipient’s death, preventing complicated grief and depression. According to principal investigator and lead author Richard Schulz, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, the finding was totally unexpected.

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