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Caregiver characteristics are associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia.

Sink KM, Covinsky KE, Barnes DE, Newcomer RJ, Yaffe K. Caregiver characteristics are associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2006 May 1; 54(5):796-803.

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OBJECTIVES: To determine whether caregiver characteristics are independently associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia (NPS) after accounting for patient characteristics. DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis of data from the Medicare Alzheimer's Disease Demonstration and Evaluation study. SETTING: Community-dwelling residents in eight U.S. cities. PARTICIPANTS: Five thousand seven hundred eighty-eight patients with dementia and their caregivers. MEASUREMENTS: Caregivers were asked about the presence of 12 NPS in patients with dementia. Caregiver predictors included age, sex, education, income, marital status, relationship to the patient, whether they lived with patient, number of hours per week spent caregiving, self-reported health, dependency in activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), depression, and burden. Multivariate linear regression was used to determine which caregiver characteristics were independently associated with reports of more NPS in patients after controlling for the patient's age, sex, dementia severity, level of ADL dependency, and dementia type. RESULTS: Caregivers were on average 64 years old, 72% female, and 49% were the spouse of the patient (32% wives, 17% husbands). The mean burden score of caregivers was 15 (range 0-32, with higher scores indicating more burden), and 32% had significant depressive symptoms. Patients were on average 79 years old, 60% were female, and most had moderate to severe dementia. The mean number of NPS+/-standard deviation was 4.8+/-2.8. After adjusting for patient characteristics, caregivers who were younger, less educated, more depressed, more burdened, or spent more hours per week giving care reported more NPS in care recipients (all P < or = .005). CONCLUSION: Certain caregiver characteristics are associated with NPS, independent of patient characteristics, including dementia severity. Clinicians should consider the dynamics between patients and caregivers when managing NPS. Understanding how different caregiver characteristics influence NPS may help tailor caregiver education and interventions.

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