WASHINGTON — The stress of caring for a relative with Alzheimer's disease often causes depression and may hasten the onset of potentially fatal diseases, two researchers told a federal advisory panel Monday.
Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and Ronald Glaser told the Federal Advisory Panel on Alzheimer's Disease that about a third of the spouses they studied who were looking after an Alzheimer's patient suffered depression, compared to only 1% among people of similar ages who did not have spouses with the illness.
The husband and wife team from Ohio State University also found a much higher incidence of diseases among "care-givers," such as pneumonia and influenza that are among the leading causes of death for Americans older than 75.
Kiecolt-Glaser called these care-givers the "second victims" of Alzheimer's disease, which afflicts an estimated 2.5 million to 4 million Americans. About 25% of people over age 85 have the disease, health experts say, and the number of cases is expected to increase by 60% by the year 2000 as Americans grow older.