Episodic memory and executive functioning in informal dementia caregivers

Linda Jütten*, Ruth Mark, Margriet Sitskoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives:
Informal dementia caregivers are thought to experience high levels of depression and burden, which can contribute to worse cognitive functioning. However, poorer cognitive functioning in caregivers is not always found. The current study explored whether caregivers perform better, worse, or similar to non-caregivers on tasks for executive functioning and memory. Whether sociodemographic and psychosocial characteristics are associated with caregivers’ performance was also assessed.

Methods:
One hundred forty-five caregivers completed the Letter Fluency and Category Fluency, the Logical Memory test from the WMS-III, and five questionnaires assessing psychological characteristics. Standardized z-scores (based on age, education, and sex) were calculated using data from a matched control group (187 non-caregivers). One sample z-tests were executed to examine if the caregivers’ standardized mean z-score significantly deviated from the population mean of z = 0. The z-scores were used as dependent variables in multivariable regression analyses.

Results:
The caregivers performed significantly better on Logical Memory - Immediate Recall than non-caregivers (z = 2.92, p = .004). The obtained z-scores on the other tasks did not deviate significantly from 0. Male sex and social reliance predicted higher scores on Category Fluency, but the F-test was non-significant, and the explained variance was low (adjusted R2 = .068).

Conclusions:
We found no evidence for poorer cognitive performance among informal caregivers compared to non-caregivers. Our results suggest that caregiving for a loved one with dementia does not impair the caregivers’ episodic memory or executive functioning when measured cross-sectionally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1681-1689
JournalAging & Mental Health
Volume24
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • ANXIETY
  • COGNITIVE DECLINE
  • Caregivers
  • DEPRESSION
  • FALSE DISCOVERY RATE
  • FAMILY CAREGIVERS
  • HPA AXIS
  • LIFE EVENTS
  • MORTALITY
  • RISK
  • STRESS
  • cognition
  • dementia
  • executive functioning
  • informal

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