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Spouses of people with incident dementia are at sixfold increased risk of developing dementia themselves

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Is caring for a spouse with dementia associated with an increase the care giver's risk of developing dementia?


1221 married couples aged 65 or older (mean age husbands 75.7 years, wives 73.1 years) without dementia were at baseline. All participants were assessed for dementia at the start of the study and every 3 years subsequently. A screening questionnaire (Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) or Informant Questionnaire in Cognitive decline in the Elderly (IQCODE)) was used to identify those with possible dementia. These individuals plus a 19% subsample of other participants were given an in depth clinical assessment including history taking, a brief physical evaluation, a structured neurological examination and a battery of neuropsychological of tests. At the first two screening assessments, the Dementia Questionnaire (DQ) was completed before the clinical assessment. Working diagnoses of dementia were made according to DSM-III-R criteria based on a review of all results by the assessment team, a geriatric psychiatrist and neuropsychologist. Individuals with a working dementia diagnosis had further psychiatric evaluation and laboratory studies and were reassessed after 18 months. Final consensus diagnosis was made based on all available information by a multidisciplinary consensus panel of dementia experts, with onset defined as the year in which the individual unambiguously met DSM-III-R criteria for dementia. For individuals who screened positive for dementia …

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  • Source of funding The National Institutes of Health.


  • Competing interests None.

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