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De-Stress: Examining the health and well-being of spousal caregivers of people with dementia in Ireland.

Volunteers needed!

We are looking for volunteers over the age of 50 who care for their spouse or partner with dementia at home. Volunteers will be asked to:

  • answer questions about their role as a caregiver, their life style, and their psychological and physical wellbeing
  • complete some tasks that measure various aspects of mental function (e.g., memory and attention)
  • provide saliva samples, which will be used to examine physiological data on stress and genetic factors that may be linked with healthy ageing.

Participation is open until November 2014. You can read more about the study below.

Study Background

The average age of the population in Ireland and the number of people aged over 65 is increasing. The prevalence of dementia also increases with age, which means that there is a growing need for dementia care. Currently much of this care is provided by informal caregivers who are frequently elderly spouses. Providing such care can be very rewarding for the caregiver and it is often associated with better quality of life and positive health outcomes for the person with dementia. However, it can also be challenging, especially for older caregivers who may have their own health problems. There is considerable evidence that assuming the role of caregiver is stressful and that, as a result, caregivers may be at an increased risk for psychological and physical health problems. It is therefore extremely important that the impact of caregiving is considered and that the health of caregivers is understood and optimised.

Study Rationale

Ireland's heavy reliance on informal caregiving in dementia will only remain feasible if the wellbeing of caregivers is protected. This research will provide, for the first time in Ireland, information on the determinants of the health of spousal carers of people with dementia. Furthermore, in addition to examining the psychological and physical wellbeing of caregivers, the study will contribute to the existing literature by exploring the impact of caregiving on cognitive health. Chronic psychosocial stress has been implicated in age-related cognitive decline. Elevated cortisol levels indicate stress and may be a risk factor for cognitive decline. However, despite an extensive literature on the effects of age, chronic stress, anxiety and depression on cognitive function, research examining cognitive function in caregivers and in particular caregivers of people with dementia, is sparse.


The aim of De-Stress is to characterise the health and wellbeing of Irish spousal dementia caregivers. We would like to examine what factors are associated with both positive and negative health outcomes for such caregivers. For example, we will look for factors that might protect people from the effects of stress. Furthermore, we would like to clarify the relationship between cognitive function and the stress associated with caring for a spouse with dementia. The ultimate goal of this study is to produce knowledge that could be used to inform policy, future research, and the development of targeted interventions in order to improve caregiver health and make care in the community a viable option, not only for the individual with dementia, but also for their caregiver.

Study Design

De-Stress is a 3-year study, which began in June 2013. The study will assess caregiver stress, cognitive function (for example, memory and attention), psychological and physical well-being, as well as genetic information and physiological data on stress at baseline and 12 months later in a group of 300 spousal dementia caregivers.

Funding Agency

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Health Research Board under the Medical Research Charities Group Scheme.

Further information

For further information about De-Stress call 01 896 8414 or e-mail or a member of our research team:
Dr. Maria Pertl at
Alan Galvin at


Last updated 26 July 2018

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