Care Giver Coping May Affect Dementia

Dementia got worse at a slower rate when care givers had certain types of coping skills

(RxWiki News) Caring for a loved one with dementia can be stressful. The way you cope with that stress may affect the way your loved one’s dementia changes over time.

When care givers focused on solving problems, dementia got worse at a slower rate.

Problem-focused coping is when stress is managed by taking each specific problem and finding a solution to each problem. This type of coping can keep stress low by creating smaller and more manageable problems to deal with.

Exactly why this type of coping helps dementia patients in not known.

"Ask your therapist about problem focused coping."

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, led by JoAnn Tschanz, PhD, looked at 226 patients with dementia and their families.

They used standard tests to measure memory and thinking in the patients with dementia. They also asked questions of the care givers in the families to report on the way they coped with the stress of caregiving.

They talked to patients and their families every six months for up to six years.

Over time, patients with dementia will get worse. Their memory loss shows up as changes in their scores on memory tests.

Dr. Tschanz’ group looked at how care giver coping styles were linked to the way memory scores changed over time.

On one memory test, memory decline was slower when care givers used counting blessings as a coping style. For another memory test, wishful thinking and seeking social support were linked with slower rates of decline.

For people whose care givers reported using problem-focused coping, the scores for both memory tests got worse more slowly.

Each year, the patients of care givers that used problem-focused coping lost fewer points on the memory tests.

The researchers concluded that problem-focused coping was helpful for both the patient and the care giver. More research is needed to understand exactly why this type of coping is helpful.

The study was published August 14 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Funding information and conflicts of interest were not available.

Review Date: 
August 27, 2012