As our population ages, an increasing number of family members are involved in caregiving of elder relatives with dementia, which can lead to stress and depression, new research shows.

Previous research reported by MASSAGE Magazine shows caregivers’ depression and PTSD symptoms are high; and that massage therapy benefits both hospice patients and the patients’ primary caregivers.

About four million people in the country care for a family member with dementia, the new research shows. Care most often continues for five to seven years, but some caregivers take on this role for 15 to 20 years.

New research from Penn State and the Benjamin Rose Institute found family members who provide care to relatives with dementia, but do not have formal training, frequently experience overwhelming stress that sometimes leads to breakdowns or depression.

The researchers found interventions to alleviate this stress are not always effective, leaving caregivers isolated to deal with their stresses.

Steven Zarit, professor and head of the human development and family studies department at Penn State and colleagues studied the 15 most common stressors for caregivers, including:

• financial strain
• patient behaviors
• frequency of help from family and friends; and
• caregiving time demands.

The findings, published in a recent issue of the journal Aging & Mental Health, showed that the 67 people in the study experienced radically different types and amounts of stress.

“Some people feel more strain from the sense that they’ve lost a relationship with their family member, or because of conflict with siblings or other relatives. It’s different for everyone,” Zarit explained.

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