Marital relationship quality in early-stage dementia: perspectives from people with dementia and their spouses

Clare, Linda; Nelis, Sharon M.; Whitaker, Christopher J.; Martyr, Anthony; Markova, Ivana S.; Roth, Iiona; Woods, Robert T. and Morris, Robin G. (2012). Marital relationship quality in early-stage dementia: perspectives from people with dementia and their spouses. Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, 26(2) pp. 148–158.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/WAD.0b013e318221ba23

Abstract

Spouse caregivers of people with dementia (PwD) report relatively poor marital relationship quality (RQ), but few studies have obtained the perspective of the PwD. This study explored caregiver and PwD perceptions of RQ, identified associated factors, and examined how perceptions of RQ change over an 18-month period. Participants were 54 couples where one spouse had early-stage dementia and 54 control couples. RQ was assessed with the Positive Affect Index. Measures of mood, stress and quality of life (QoL) were also administered. The clinical couples were followed up after 9 and 18 months. Caregivers gave significantly lower RQ ratings than controls. PwD ratings did not differ significantly from those of caregivers or controls. Dyadic discrepancies were significantly greater in the clinical than in the control group. Caregiver ratings were associated with stress, while PwD ratings were associated with depression and QoL. Discrepancies were associated with caregiver stress and with PwD mood, QoL, and age. Caregiver ratings declined significantly over time; PwD ratings did not decline significantly, but showed different trends for men and women, declining for female PwD but improving for male PwD. It is important to consider RQ when considering how to support couples where one partner has early-stage dementia.

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