Psychosocial distress among spouses of persons with dementia before and after their partner's death

TitlePsychosocial distress among spouses of persons with dementia before and after their partner's death
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsKotwal, AA, Cenzer, I, Hunt, L, Ankuda, C, Torres, JM, Smith, AK, Aldridge, M, Harrison, KL
JournalAmerican Geriatrics Society
KeywordsDementia, partner's death, Psychosocial distress, Spouses
Abstract

Spouses of persons living with dementia may face heightened psychosocial distress in the years immediately before and after their partner's death. We compared the psychosocial needs of spouses of partners with dementia with spouses of partners with non-impaired cognition nearing and after the end of life, focusing on loneliness, depression, life satisfaction, and social isolation.

Methods
We used nationally representative Health and Retirement Study married couples data (2006–2018), restricting to spouses 50+ years old. We included 2098 spouses with data on loneliness and depressive symptoms 2 years before and after the partner's death. We additionally examined a subset of spouses (N = 1113) with available data on life satisfaction and social isolation 2 years before their partner's death. Cognitive status of partners was classified as non-impaired cognition, cognitive impairment not dementia (cognitive impairment), and dementia. We used multivariable logistic regression to determine: 1) the change in loneliness and depression for spouses pre- and post-partner's death, and 2) life satisfaction and social isolation 2 years before the partner's death.

Results
Spouses were on average 73 years old (SD: 10), 66% women, 7% Black, 7% Hispanic non-White, 24% married to persons with cognitive impairment, and 19% married to partners with dementia. Before their partner's death, spouses married to partners with dementia experienced more loneliness (non-impaired cognition: 8%, cognitive impairment: 16%, dementia: 21%, p-value = 0.002) and depressive symptoms (non-impaired cognition: 20%, cognitive impairment: 27%, dementia: 31%, p-value < 0.001), and after death a similar prevalence of loneliness and depression across cognitive status. Before their partner's death, spouses of partners with dementia reported less life satisfaction (non-impaired cognition: 74%, cognitive impairment: 68%; dementia: 64%, p-value = 0.02) but were not more socially isolated.

Conclusion
Results emphasize a need for clinical and policy approaches to expand support for the psychosocial needs of spouses of partners with dementia in the years before their partner's death rather than only bereavement.

URLhttps://agsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jgs.19030
DOI10.1111/jgs.19030
Citation Key14011