Compared with wives who care for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, daughters caring for similarly afflicted parents experience more cardiovascular stress, a new study shows. Dr. Abby C. King, of Stanford Medical School, and Colleagues studied 81 women, ages 50 – 85, who acted as primary caregivers to a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or stroke. Fifty-seven of the women were wives caring for their husbands; the remainder were daughters caring for a parent.
Researchers found that, while blood pressure and heart rate were nearly identical for both groups when they were not taking care of their sick relative, the daughters’ heart rates and blood pressures rose significantly more than those of the wives when they were providing care.
In hourly records of their activities and feelings, daughters also reported more stress while taking care of their ailing parents then wives reported while taking care of their husbands.
“This is the first evidence of a differential physiologic effects of caregiving in the natural environment for daughters versus wives,” said King. King AC, Atienza A, Castro C, Collins R. (2002)
Physiological and affective responses to family caregiving in the natural setting in wives versus daughters. Int J Behav Med 2002; 3 (9): 176-94