Caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and factors influencing institutionalization of loved ones: some considerations on existing literature.

Sansoni J, Anderson KH, Varona LM, Varela G.
Ann Ig. 2013 May-Jun;25(3):235-46. doi: 10.7416/ai.2013.1926.

SOURCE:  Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Nursing Research Unit, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy – School of Nursing, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA – School of Nursing, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA.

Background: Informal caring or caregiving is very common in our postindustrial society. Caregiving burden grows with the worsening of cognitive impairment of the patient and is one of the factors influencing institutionalization. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a type of dementia that is chronic and deteriorative. The symptoms of this neuropsychiatric disorder generally begin to manifest after the age of sixty and currently 8.9 million family caregivers provide assistance to someone with AD or a related dementia. As the patient’s condition worsens, it increases the burden on the caregivers, due to the physical, psychological, and emotional stresses that result from caring for the patient. Methods: A search of the literature was conducted on electronic database: PubMed, Google Scholar, Science direct, CINAHL in a exploratory way. Inclusion criteria were: articles in English and Italian published between 1999-2011 which mentioned Alzheimer’s caregivers, burden, stressors, and institutionalization. The exclusion criterion was failure to mention the word “caregivers”. About 100 titles were found and 30 articles abstracts with key words in the title were reviewed. Of the 30 articles selected for further review based on the relevance to the study purpose, 17 articles were finally selected for inclusion in this literature review. Results: Results display that caregiver burden is influenced by patient behavioral and cognitive status, hours involved in care, stress, social isolation, gender, relationship to the patient, availability of support resources, and caregiver characteristics. Assessment tools available to assess and recognize risk factors and burden in caregivers are useful both in terms of caregivers health and decision on istitutionalization. Conclusion: Literature suggests to provide information for health care providers to reduce burden and support caregiver health and well-being. Assessment tools available to assess and recognize risk factors and burden in caregivers should be used more often to contribute to reducing caregiver stress and the impact of institutionalization.