Context Placing a relative with dementia into a long-term care facility is common
among caregivers. Placement transition and factors that affect caregiver health
and well-being after placement of the patient are not well described.
Objective To assess the impact of placing a relative with dementia in a long-term
care facility on caregivers' health and well-being.
Design, Setting, and Participants Prospective study from 1996 to 2000 of the placement transition in a
sample of 1222 caregiver-patient dyads recruited from 6 US sites. A total
of 180 patients were placed in a long-term care facility during the 18-month
follow-up period. Data collected before and after placement were analyzed
to identify factors associated with placement, the nature of contact between
caregivers and their institutionalized relatives after placement, and the
relation of both of these factors to health outcomes among dementia caregivers.
Main Outcome Measures Caregiver depression (symptoms on the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression
[CES-D] scale; range, 0-60) and anxiety (State Trait Inventory; range, 10-40)
and use of prescription medications for depression and anxiety.
Results Caregivers who institutionalized their relative reported depressive
symptoms and anxiety to be as high as they were while in-home caregivers.
Overall CES-D scores for depression did not change from before to after placement
(median [IQR], 15.0 [8-24.5] and 15.0 [7.7-28]; P =
.64). Overall anxiety scores on the State Trait Inventory also did not change
significantly (median [IQR], 22.0 [19-27] before vs 21.1 [18-27] after; P = .21). These effects were most pronounced among caregivers
who were married to the patient (P = .02 for depression),
visited more frequently (P = .01 for depression and P<.001 for anxiety), and were less satisfied with the
help they received from others (P = .003 for depression
and P<.001 for anxiety). The use of antidepressants
did not change significantly before (21.1%) to after (17.9%) placement (P = .16). The use of anxiolytics before to after placement
increased from 14.6% to 19% (P = .02), and nearly
half of caregivers (48.3%) were at risk for clinical depression following
placement of their relative.
Conclusions The transition to institutional care is particularly difficult for spouses,
almost half of whom visit the patient daily and continue to provide help with
physical care during their visits. Clinical interventions that better prepare
the caregiver for a placement transition and treat their depression and anxiety
following placement may be of great benefit to these individuals.