Caregivers need respite from stress

PENN STATE (US) — Adult day care services are not only beneficial for seniors with dementia, but for their caregivers as well.

“Family members who care for dementia patients are susceptible to experiencing high levels of stress,” says Steven Zarit, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State. “One way of alleviating that stress is through the use of an adult day care center, which allows them a predictable break from caregiving responsibilities.”

For the study, published online in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, Zarit evaluated the stress levels of 150 caregivers through the use of a 24-hour daily diary both prior to and following the use of an adult day care service.


Caregivers recorded entries in their diaries, both on days when their relatives went to an adult day care service and on days when their relatives stayed home.

“In the diaries, we asked the caregivers to discuss their moods and the moods of their relatives, how agitated or restless their relatives were, and how many sleep disturbances their relatives had, among other topics,” says Zarit.

Caregivers generally reported greater levels of stress exposure prior to the use of an adult day care service and on days when their relatives did not attend adult day care programs. The team also found that behavior problems and poor sleep were more likely to occur on days when dementia patients remained at home, Zarit says.

“The changes we have seen are as large as you’d get with medication, but with no side effects.”

Researchers from Virginia Tech contributed to the study, that was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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