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Dynamic process of family burden in dementia caregiving: a new field for psychotherapeutic interventions

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Families caring for a patient with dementia are prone to significant physical, psychological and social stress. It is now well established that the caregiver burden does not only negatively affect the caregiver's physical and mental health, but is also associated with an increase in behavioural and psychiatric symptoms of dementia. Burden determinants include the quality of the relationship between the patient and caregiver; patient variables, such as the need to manage the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia; and also caregiver variables, such as the satisfaction of caring, demographic characteristics and societal roles. The standardised assessment of interventions for caregivers in dementia care remains a difficult task. In recent years, family interventions that focus on the process of burden itself in relation to the caregiver's subjective experience of personal growth and enrichment have been proposed. This new approach is based on the identification of tasks and challenges faced by family members throughout the different stages of the disease. In this context, brief crisis interventions transform periods of disorganisation experienced by the family into opportunities for change, whereas rehabilitation interventions developed by professional caring networks offer a continuous assessment and advice to the family. This article provides a critical review of the consequences and determinants of caregiver burden in dementia care with special reference to the emerging notion of the caregiver's subjective experience in the context of family processes.
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Keywords: burden; dementia; family caregiving; intervention; psychogeriatrics; review

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychiatry Department, Clinic of Geriatric Psychiatry, University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG), Geneva, Switzerland

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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