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Home About Us Press Room Archived Press Releases 2011 Press Releases Family Caregivers Get Much-Needed Break from Adult Day Care Services

For Immediate Release
July 18, 2011

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

Family Caregivers Get Much-Needed Break from Adult Day Care Services

Adult day care services significantly reduce the stress levels of family caregivers of older adults with dementia, according to a team of Penn State and Virginia Tech researchers. Their finding is reported in a new article in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences.

“Family members who care for dementia patients are susceptible to experiencing high levels of stress,” said Steven Zarit, PhD, a professor and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State and the study's lead author. “One way of alleviating that stress is through the use of an adult day care center, which allows them a predictable break from caregiving responsibilities.”

Not only do caregivers benefit from using such services, but dementia patients also gain from the break. Zarit and his colleagues showed that dementia patients who attend adult day care centers have fewer behavior problems and they sleep better at night.

“The changes we have seen are as large as you’d get with medication, but with no side effects,” he said.

Zarit and his team evaluated the stress levels of 150 caregivers by using a 24-hour daily diary to obtain baseline information prior to the use of an adult day care service. After the caregivers began the use of an adult daycare, the researchers gathered data at various times over a two-month period. The caregivers recorded entries in their diaries, both on days when their relatives went to an adult day care service and on days when their relatives stays home.

“In the diaries, we asked the caregivers to discuss their moods and the moods of their relatives, how agitated or restless their relatives were, and how many sleep disturbances their relatives had, among other topics,” said Zarit.

The team's results revealed that caregivers generally reported greater levels of stress exposure prior to the use of an adult day care service and on days when their relatives did not attend adult day care programs. The team also found that behavior problems and poor sleep were more likely to occur on days when dementia patients remained at home.

Zarit and his colleagues are now studying the possible physiological effects these services can have on family caregivers. They are using stress markers, such as the stress hormone cortisol, to examine the body's response to high-stress days when relatives with dementia stays home versus low-stress ones when relatives with dementia attend adult day care centers.

Other researchers involved in the study include Kyungmin Kim, MA, a graduate student in human development and family studies at Penn State; Elia Femia, PhD, a research associate in human development and family studies at Penn State; David Almeida, PhD, a professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, Jyoti Savla, PhD, an assistant professor of human development and gerontology at Virginia Tech; and Peter Molenaar, PhD, a professor of human development and psychology at Penn State.

This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences is a refereed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,400+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Click here for a printable PDF version of this press release.

Mildred M. Seltzer Distinguished Service Recognition

Presented to C. Joanne Grabinski, PhD, Eastern Michigan University, and Mary Alice Wolf, PhD, Saint Joseph University.

This award honors colleagues who are near retirement or recently retired. Recipients are individuals who have been actively involved in AGHE through service on committees, as elected officers, and/or have provided leadership in one of AGHE’s grant-funded projects.

Administrative Leadership Award

Presented to Tammy M. Bray, PhD, Oregon State University

This award honors administrators on AGHE member campuses who have made exceptional efforts in support of gerontology or geriatrics education.

David A. Peterson Gerontology & Geriatrics Education Best Paper of the Volume Award

Presented to Nina M. Silverstein, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston; Elizabeth Johns, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Judith A. Griffin, MA, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the article “Students Explore Livable Communities.” Honorable mention is given to Emily J. Robbins, MS, Miami University; Jennifer M. Kinney, PhD, Miami University; and Cary S. Kart, PhD, Miami University, for the article “Promoting Active Engagement in Health Research: Lessons Learned from an Undergraduate Gerontology Capstone Course.”

The purpose of this award is to recognize excellence in scholarship in academic gerontology in AGHE’s official journal, Gerontology & Geriatrics Education.

Graduate Student Paper Award

Presented to Deborah Gray, MBA, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the paper “Weight and Wealth: The Relationship between Obesity and Net Worth for Pre-Retirement Age Men and Women.”

This award acknowledges excellence in scholarly work conducted by an AGHE Annual Meeting student attendee.

Book Award for Best Children’s Literature on Aging

Presented to Caitlin Dale Nicholson and Leona Morinn-Nelson for “Niwechihaw/I help” in the primary reader (pre-K to 2nd grade) category, and Ann Grifalconi and Jerry Pickney for “Ain’t Nobody A Stranger to Me” in the elementary reader (3rd to 5th grade) category.

This award recognizes portrayals of meaningful aging in children’s literature.