Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Public Health

Department

Gerontology

First Advisor

Dr. Pamela B. Teaster

Abstract

Dementia is characterized as a progressive loss of brain function that results in the deterioration of many cognitive and physical abilities. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, causing steady declines in memory, functional abilities, and mental functioning. With a projected increase of degenerative illnesses, such as AD, family caregiving for individuals with the disease is also steadily increasing. Caring for an individual with AD has been characterized as a “career,” and within this career are a number of key transitions, including the onset of caregiving. Preexisting caregiving research reveals a number of negative consequences for AD family caregivers, including depression, overload, and physical health complications. The purpose of this study was to examine how different patterns of caregiving onset (gradual and abrupt) and role occupancy (how many roles the caregiver is holding) impact mental health and physical health outcomes for AD caregivers. This study also explored how cognitive decline and behavioral problems found within the care-recipient have the potential to moderate these relationships.

Cross-sectional, quantitative data from one hundred participants completing self-administered surveys was used in this study. A series of one-way ANOVAS and multiple regression analyses were conducted to address the study’s aims. Results indicated that care-recipient cognition and behavioral problems moderated the relationship between caregiving onset and mental health outcomes, including depression, role overload, and role captivity for caregivers who experienced a more abrupt entry into the caregiving role. Results suggest the importance of considering moderating factors within the caregiving career, as well as different caregiving onset transitions. Clinical implications of the findings are discussed, as well as directions for future research, including prospective caregiving research.

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Geriatrics Commons

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