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Parkinson's caregivers at risk for deteriorating health

PORTLAND, Ore. - An Oregon Health & Science University study shows the health of family caregivers should be as top of mind as that of Parkinson's disease patients.

The study by researchers at the OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon found that people caring for spouses with Parkinson's disease, either at home or in a care facility, are at heightened risk for deteriorating health and well-being, as well significantly increased strain.

The investigators studied spouse-caregivers from early in the diagnosis of their spouses' Parkinson's disease and again 10 years later. The goal of the study was to identify early warning signs in families that would predict who is at greatest risk of caregiver strain, and the negative effect on health and depression.

The study of more than 150 spouse-caregivers of early-stage Parkinson's patients found that physical and mental health declined and strain increased dramatically over 10 years. The investigators also found that there were predictors early in the course of caregiving that might identify who was at greatest risk.

"As an example, caregivers who had bad health and depression to start with were more likely to have worse health and depression at the end of care giving," said study investigator Julie H. Carter, R.N., M.S., A.N.P., associate professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and associate director of the Parkinson Center of Oregon.

The findings suggest the health of family caregivers is paramount to the well-being of Parkinson's disease patients. And they may help researchers identify potential areas of early interventions to improve the health of both patients and caregivers.

"Families are an invisible part of health care. They provide tremendous support in delivering care and if something happens to that vital link, it makes the person with Parkinson's disease more vulnerable," Carter said. "So being concerned about the health of families ends up having incredible
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Contact: Jonathan Modie
modiej@ohsu.edu
503 494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
26-May-2004


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