Health of Dementia Caregivers Focus of New Trinity Research

Posted on: 19 November 2013

The health and well-being of partners who care for people with dementia is the subject of a three-year study being undertaken by researchers at Trinity College Dublin’s Institute for Neuroscience.

Researchers at Trinity are looking to recruit 300 participants for its De-Stress project which will study the stress levels and cognitive function of Irish dementia caregivers. The study, being conducted by Trinity’s NEIL (Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives) programme, will provide information on the determinants of the health of carers of people with dementia.

Informal caregivers, over the age of 50, who are providing care for their spouse or partner with dementia at home are eligible to participate. The study is funded by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the Health Research Board under the Medical Research Charities Group funding scheme.

The average age of the population in Ireland and the number of people aged over 65 is increasing. Unfortunately the prevalence of dementia also increases with age, which means that there is a growing need for dementia care. Much of this care is provided by informal caregivers who are frequently partners over the age of 60. While this type of care is a vital and invaluable resource associated with better quality of life and positive health outcomes for the person with dementia, it can be challenging for the person providing care.  

Professor Brian Lawlor, Clinical Director of NEIL and Conolly Norman Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at Trinity, commented: “You can’t treat the person with dementia without taking the caregiver into consideration. By understanding the effects of caregiving on cognitive functioning, we can think about how to develop novel interventions that will benefit the caregiver but also will have a knock on benefit for the person with dementia. Ultimately, we want to improve the quality of life of the person with dementia and their caregiver, allowing the person with dementia to be able to stay at home with a good quality of life for as long as possible.”

“Also, it is important to consider the impact that providing dementia care has on caregivers’ lives. Though caregiving can be rewarding and have positive effects on caregivers, it may also negatively affect their relationships, careers, income, health and well-being. Recent reports suggest that caring for a person with dementia places greater burden and strain on family members than other caring roles. Thus, though caregivers want to provide care, it is essential that they themselves are supported and protected from the additional stresses of providing care.”

NEIL (Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives) of Ireland, added: “Irish dementia care policy has a massive reliance on the family carer as the main provider of dementia care.  By gaining an understanding of the carers’ health determinants this research will inform policy into the future that can point to the development of targeted interventions in order to improve carers’ health and make care in the community a viable option.”

 Key Facts[i]

  • There are currently 41,740 Irish people with dementia; by 2041 there will be over 140,000.
  • 60-70% of individuals (approximately 26,104 people) with dementia in Ireland currently live at home in the community.
  • There are an estimated 50,000 family carers of people with at least one symptom of dementia in Ireland.
  • The overall cost of dementia care in Ireland is just over €1.69 billion per annum; 48% of this is attributable to informal family care; 43% is accounted for by residential care; formal health and social care services contribute only 9% to the total cost.
  • The average cost of care per person with dementia in Ireland is estimated at €40,500, consistent with per capita estimates from other countries.  

 Media Coverage:

Study Contact:

For information about the study, or if you are interested in participating, please contact project coordinator Dr Maria Pertl, research fellow at the Department of Psychology, on or Tel:  01 8968414.

Media Contact:

For media queries please contact Fiona Tyrrell, Press Officer for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Trinity College Dublin at or tel: + 353 1 8964337, or Nicole Matthews, Communications Manager, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland at or tel: + 353 86 3988 066.

[i]  Cahill, S., O’Shea, E., & Pierce, M. (2012). Creating Excellence in Dementia Care: A research review for Ireland’s National Dementia Strategy. DSIDC’s Living with Dementia Research Programme. Dublin: Trinity College School of Social Work and Social Policy; Irish Centre for Social Gerontology; National University of Ireland, Galway.