Alzheimer's effect on spouse's health focus of new Rice study

Come September, Rice University will start recruiting in the broader Houston area for Alzheimer's spouses who are caregivers.

Rice University Psychology Associate Professor Christopher P. Fagundes said they want to know what predicts resilience in people.

"There's some people, as we know that aren't affected so much biologically by these chronic stressors compared with others, and we want to know why in order to create effective intervention for the future," said Fagundes.

Researchers are interested in the biological effects and more importantly, what predicts resilience.

Fagundes said for the caregiver it's a chronic high stress event.

"They're spending 24 hours a day with this patient trying to care for them as they're going through a bereavement process themselves, as they see their spouse deteriorating before them," said Fagundes.

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease that affects about 5.8 million people in the United States, but how does it impact the health of their spouses? A new five-year, $3.8 million study at Rice University will try to find out. The study is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Fagundes and his team will recruit 320 people — 160 patients and their spouses — and follow them for two years, conducting psychological assessments four times in addition to blood draws, electrocardiograms, neuropsychological assessments and other tests. Alzheimer's patients selected for the study must have symptoms in the mild to moderate range.

He added they'll also recruit some Alzheimer’s patients to see if the caregiver's health impacts how a patient is taken care of.

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