Alzheimer's Disease Caregivers' Health and Important Resources: Next Steps in Intervention Research

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In this issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, Mausbach and colleagues report that Alzheimer's disease caregivers who engage in more pleasant leisure activities had lower blood pressure for 5 years compared with those who engage in fewer leisure activities. This novel finding suggests that something as simple as taking more walks in the park or more time for reading books could protect the physical health of caregivers. In this editorial, we review possible mechanisms linking pleasant leisure activities with lower blood pressure in caregivers and discuss potential barriers that prevent caregivers from engaging in pleasant leisure activities. One possibility is that caregivers may not give themselves “permission” to take time away from caregiving, or feel guilty or selfish for doing so. Another impediment may be lack of outside assistance or support that would be needed to take time for leisure activities. Primary health care providers may play an important role in helping caregivers overcome these obstacles. In addition, public policy innovations are needed to meet the increasing societal demands on the psychological and medical consequences of caregiver burden.

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