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Impact of early dementia on caregivers: a review

Objective: When it comes to dementia, caregiving can have adverse effects on the psychological and physical health of the informal caregiver. As yet, little is known about the impact of caring for a young dementia patient. This review provides an overview of the literature concerning the impact of early onset dementia (EOD) on informal caregivers and on children of EOD patients. The available literature comparing the impact on EOD and late onset dementia (LOD) caregivers will also be provided.

Methods: PubMed, Psychinfo, and Cinahl were searched for articles that considered the psychological or psychosocial impact of EOD on informal caregivers and children. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed in order to make better judgments about the value of each article.

Results: Seventeen articles were included, of which the overall methodological quality was limited. The results showed that EOD caregivers experienced high levels of burden, stress, and depression. When compared with LOD caregivers, results were inconclusive. Furthermore, the caregivers of EOD patients experienced a variety of psychosocial problems, including relational problems, family conflict, problems with employment, financial difficulties, and problems concerning diagnosis.

Conclusions: Whether there is a difference in impact between EOD and LOD on caregivers is still unclear. The studies conducted are methodologically too limited to answer this question. Nevertheless, it is clear that EOD caregivers do seem to experience high levels of psychological suffering and specific problems related to their phase in life.

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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry

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