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Sunday, March 9, 2014
Alzheimer`s by Proxy
Is it possible to develop Alzheimer like symptoms from taking care of a person with Alzheimer`s or dementia? My mother-in-law has been taking exclusive care of her husband for several years and now she seems to be acting the same way he did when he started with the disease. He is now in a nursing home and we wonder if her memory will reverse itself?
Alzheimer`s disease is not a contagious condition, so it is not possible for someone to "catch" Alzheimer`s disease from providing care. However, caring for a person with a dementia like Alzheimer`s is stressful. Stress can lead to changes in memory and thinking, mood disturbance, and changes in behavior. In addition, stress can lead to a clinical depression or anxiety condition which can cause changes in memory and thinking as well. It is also possible for stress to magnify normal age related changes in memory and thinking. Finally, your mother-in-law may actually be in the early stages of dementia. I would encourage your mother-in-law to seek medical evaluation. This will help to determine if she is indeed showing the early signs of a dementia, normal age related changes, depression or anxiety, or stress related changes, all of which can be treated to some degree. With a reduction in her in home care responsibilities, she may improve. However, it is important to note that nursing home placement does not completely alleviate all stress, often families encounter a whole new set of stressors. I encourage you to follow up with medical consultation for your mother-in-law to best help her through this difficult time. Thank you for sending us your question. If you have other questions, please don`t hesitate to contact us again.
Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University