Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the joint effects of bereavement and caregiver intervention on caregiver depressive symptoms.
Design and Methods: Alzheimer's caregivers from a randomized trial of an enhanced caregiver support intervention versus usual care who had experienced the death of their spouse (n = 254) were repeatedly assessed with the Geriatric Depression Scale prior to and following bereavement. Random effects regression growth curve analyses examined the effects of treatment group and bereavement while controlling for other variables.
Results: The death of the care recipient led to reductions in depressive symptoms for both caregiving groups. Enhanced support intervention led to lower depressive symptoms compared with controls both before and after bereavement. Post-bereavement group differences were stronger for caregivers of spouses who did not previously experience a nursing home placement. These caregivers maintained these differences for more than 1 year after bereavement. Caregivers who received the enhanced support intervention were more likely to show long-term patterns of fewer depressive symptoms before and after bereavement, suggesting resilience, whereas control caregivers were more likely to show chronic depressive symptoms before and after the death of their spouse.
Implications: Caregiver intervention has the potential to alter the long-term course of the caregiving career. Such clinical strategies may also protect caregivers against chronic depressive symptoms that would otherwise persist long after caregiving ends.