A new study, authored by U-M School of Nursing Ph.D. pre-candidate Melissa Harris and published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, found that older adults caring for a partner with Alzheimer’s disease are at a 30 percent greater risk of developing or worsening symptoms of depression.
Her team’s analysis of long-term data from 16,650 older adults involved in the U-M Health and Retirement Study showed an increase in feelings of depression, sadness, loneliness, and of everything taking more effort. The symptoms were observed to remain for two years or more in many cases. Harris noted depression has also been linked in older adults to a 30 percent increase in falls.
“The fact that we saw these depressive symptoms stay for at least two years, beyond two years, means they’re taking a lot of the burden and it may be impacting the care they’re able to provide over time,” Harris says.
Harris also noted, as a result of separate research, that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may be worsening these issues, as many resources and programs adult caregivers rely on have been either canceled or shifted to a virtual format.