Cognitive Health Assessment and Establishment of a Virtual Cohort of Dementia Caregivers

Lathan, C., Wallace, A. S., Shewbridge, R., Ng, N., Morrison, G., & Resnick, H. E. (2016). Cognitive Health Assessment and Establishment of a Virtual Cohort of Dementia Caregivers. Dementia and geriatric cognitive disorders extra, 6(1), 98-107. DOI: 10.1159/000444390

Findings Summary:
Caregiving is known to adversely affect mental, physical, and cognitive health. To better understand how caregiving affects cognition, a study was conducted where 527 informal caregivers of dementia patients took Lumosity’s Brain Performance Test (BPT), a web-based cognition assessment. Information was also gathered on each participant’s caregiving experience.

The caregivers were matched and compared to non-caregivers from the Lumosity database who were similar in age, gender, race, and education, and who had taken the same BPT. Overall, caregivers were found to have performed worse on three of the five subtests within the BPT in comparison to the non-caregivers, demonstrating that, in general, caregiving has a negative effect on cognition.

Individual factors related to the caregiving experience were also found to have a relationship with different areas of cognitive function. Higher scores on the Digit Symbol Coding subtest were related to more hours of sleep and lower levels of reported stress. Higher scores on Forward Memory Span was related to higher levels of perceived support; however, as hours of sleep increased as level of support did, test scores went down. Years of caregiving also related to this subtest, in that more years corresponded with higher scores, except when education level also increased, which corresponded with lower scores instead. For the Reverse Memory Search subtest, scores went down as perceived support went up. The different interactions between subtest and caregiving demonstrates the complexity of how caregiving effects cognition.

In summary, caregivers have worse overall cognitive performance, and better or worse performance can depend on multiple aspects of the caregiver’s experience.