Clinical Review| Volume 12, ISSUE 3, P240-249, May 2004

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Family Caregiving of Persons With Dementia: Prevalence, Health Effects, and Support Strategies

      The authors summarize the dementia caregiving literature and provide recommendations regarding practice guidelines for health professionals working with caregivers. Family caregiving of older persons with disability has become commonplace in the United States because of increases in life expectancy and the aging of the population, with resulting higher prevalence of chronic diseases and associated disabilities, increased constraints in healthcare reimbursement, and advances in medical technology. As a result, family members are increasingly being asked to perform complex tasks similar to those carried out by paid health or social service providers, often at great cost to their own well-being and great benefit to their relatives and society as a whole. The public health significance of caregiving has spawned an extensive literature in this area, much of it focused on dementia caregiving because of the unique and extreme challenges associated with caring for someone with cognitive impairment. This article summarizes the literature on dementia caregiving, identifies key issues and major findings regarding the definition and prevalence of caregiving, describes the psychiatric and physical health effects of caregiving, and reviews various intervention approaches to improving caregiver burden, depression, and quality of life. Authors review practice guidelines and recommendations for healthcare providers in light of the empirical literature on family caregiving.
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