Caregiver Burden and Coping in Early-stage Alzheimer Disease

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This study was set out to describe caregiver-perceived burden and coping in early-stage Alzheimer disease (AD). A total of 163 consecutive pairs of patients with AD and their principal caregivers were initially recruited. The caregivers completed the Caregiver Burden Inventory (CBI) and the Coping Orientations to Problems Experienced scale, and also provided sociodemographic information; the patients with AD were assessed by means of the Mini Mental State Examination and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Data from 126 patient-caregiver pairs were analyzed. The caregivers (mean age 56.11±12.37 y) were mainly women (76%); 64% were the patient's offspring; 39% lived with the patient. From the CBI data, it emerged that caregivers perceived loss of personal time (objective burden, 33%) and the feeling of missing out on opportunities (developmental burden, 25%) as their main stressors. Total CBI score was negatively correlated with Mini Mental State Examination (P=0.005). As regards coping strategies, the caregivers predominantly used problem-oriented strategies associated with a positive attitude. The use of dysfunctional strategies was predictive of caregiver burden. It is important to be aware that avoidance and dysfunctional coping strategies predispose caregivers of patients with AD to higher level of distress, whereas successful caregiving seems to be based on the use of problem-oriented strategies early in the disease when solutions are still available.

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