Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the joint effects of bereavement and caregiver intervention on caregiver depressive symptoms. Design and Methods: Alzheimer's caregivers from a randomized trial of an enhanced caregiver support intervention versus usual care who had experienced the death of their spouse (n = 254) were repeatedly assessed with the Geriatric Depression Scale prior to and following bereavement. Random effects regression growth curve analyses examined the effects of treatment group and bereavement while controlling for other variables. Results: The death of the care recipient led to reductions in depressive symptoms for both caregiving groups. Enhanced support intervention led to lower depressive symptoms compared with controls both before and after bereavement. Postbereavement group differences were stronger for caregivers of spouses who did not previously experience a nursing home placement. These caregivers maintained these differences for more than 1 year after bereavement. Caregivers who received the enhanced support intervention were more likely to show long-term patterns of fewer depressive symptoms before and after bereavement, suggesting resilience, whereas control caregivers were more likely to show chronic depressive symptoms before and after the death of their spouse. Implications: Caregiver intervention has the potential to alter the long-term course of the caregiving career. Such clinical strategies may also protect caregivers against chronic depressive symptoms that would otherwise persist long after caregiving ends.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH 42216) and the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG14634). Additional funding was provided through the Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center (P30-AG08051). William E. Haley was also supported by the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (P50-AG025711). Address correspondence to William E. Haley, PhD, School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, MHC 1343, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620-8100. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org 1School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa. 2Department of Biostatistics, University of Alabama at Birmingham. 3Center on Aging, Center for Gerontological Nursing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. 4Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York.