Long-Term Care News: If Spouse Has Dementia, Your Risk Increases

Researchers report that seniors have six times the risk of developing dementia if they live with a spouse who has been diagnosed with the condition, according to the study. 

The study followed 1,221 couples for 12 years.  All 2,442 study volunteers were at least 65 years old and free of dementia at the outset. By the end of the study, 255 of the seniors had developed dementias, two-thirds of which were Alzheimer’s disease. 

While the research did not explicitly ask whether spouses had taken on the role of caregiver, the director of the effort noted it was safe to assume they did.   To validate and expand the findings, the study team looked at spouses’ ages, genders and whether they had a form of the APOE gene that raises the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. 

The results barely budged they note.  “Having a spouse with dementia still resulted in a six-fold increased risk of developing the condition,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  “Alzheimer’s is the most costly of all long-term care risks facing millions of aging baby boomers who have no financial plan in place for this situation.”

The news was far worse for men: increase was almost 12-fold, as compared to a four-fold increase in women. 

Other studies have shown that caregivers for dementia patients have a high risk for major clinical depression. And there has been a study that showed that people who are prone to stress are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s.  The new study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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