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Dementia patients' spouses at higher risk
Husbands or wives who care for spouses with dementia are six times more likely to develop the memory-impairing condition than those whose spouses don't have it, according to the results of a 12-year study led by Johns Hopkins, Utah State University, and Duke University.1
A few small studies have suggested that spousal caregivers frequently show memory deficits greater than spouses who aren't caregivers. However, none examined the cognitive ability of caregivers over time using standard, strict criteria to diagnose dementia.
A study examined 1,221 married couples age 65 and older who were part of the Cache County (Utah) Memory Study, which began in 1995.
In the sample of 2,442 married people, the researchers diagnosed 255 individuals with dementia and discovered that individuals whose spouses had already been diagnosed were six times more likely to develop the condition themselves than those without an affected spouse.
1. Norton MC, Smith KR, Ostbye T, et al. Greater Risk of Dementia When Spouse Has Dementia? The Cache County Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2010;58:895-900.