Professor's caregiver research featured in Journal of Health and Aging

By Marjorie S. Miller
October 27, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A paper on caregivers of those with dementia by Steven H. Zarit, Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) in the College of Health and Human Development, has been published in the Journal of Health and Aging. Yin Liu, HDFS doctoral candidate, is first author.

The study, “Health Trajectories of Family Caregivers: Associations with Care Transitions and Adult Day Service Use,” examines family caregivers’ health changes over one year on four health dimensions and explores the association of differential health trajectories with caregiving transitions and adult day service (ADS) use. Kyungmin Kim, postdoctoral scholar, co-authored the study.

“The paper shows that people who use more days of adult day care a week have better health outcomes; specifically, less decline in functional health than people who use fewer days of adult day care,” Zarit said. “What we think this study shows is that caregivers wear down from the burden of providing care when they don’t get enough help.”

The participants were 153 primary caregivers of individuals with dementia who provided information on care situations and their own health at baseline, six-month and 12-month.

Caregivers showed increasing functional limitations and decreasing bodily pain over time, whereas role limitation and general health perception remained stable. Further, caregivers’ trajectories of functional limitation were associated with their extent of ADS use at baseline and their relatives’ placement.

“Many caregivers consider their own ‘physical’ capacity when they decide to care for their relative with dementia at home or place their relative into a nursing home,” Kim said.  “Our findings showed that caregivers who experienced increasing functional limitations (such as difficulties pushing a vacuum, moving a table, carrying groceries and climbing stairs) were more likely to place their relative into a institutional setting over time.”

But, Kim explained, caregivers who used ADS more frequently showed a less functional decline over time. 

“Thus, it may be important to provide predictable relief from caregiving responsibilities so that caregivers can be recovered from chronic stress and maintain their physical health,” Kim said.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

To view the paper online visit http://jah.sagepub.com/content/early/recent.

For more information on the Journal of Aging and Health visit jah.sagepub.com

For more information on HDFS at Penn State visit hhd.psu.edu/hdfs.

  • Kyungmin Kim

    Kyungmin Kim

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 09, 2015