Probing the Care Partner Experience in Neurodegenerative Diseases
Evidence based care
New or improved diagnostics, interventions and treatments
What the research tells us
Caring for and supporting a loved one with dementia, a neurodegenerative disease, or stroke is a role that family members or friends often take on. Statistics Canada reports that in 2018, approximately one in four Canadians aged 15 and older provided care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or problems related to aging.1 With the population aging and incidence of neurological disorders increasing, we can expect even more family members and friends to take on this role.
A number of studies, including the ONDRI study outlined below, have found that caring for another person with a neurological disorder can be a positive experience; but it can also be physically, financially, and emotionally draining, leaving the care partner feeling isolated from others. Not uncommon are feelings of guilt, stress, and exhaustion. The stress and strain of caring have been associated with poorer health and well-being outcomes for care partners.
Studying ONDRI’s Foundational study data
ONDRI researchers are investigating the experiences of family and friend care partners and the various types of stress and strain they report in caring for individuals across multiple diseases: Alzheimer’s Disease/Mild Cognitive Impairment, Parkinson’s Disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, Cerebrovascular Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease).
People with lived experience are at the core of ONDRI
According to Derek Beaton, one of the authors of an ONDRI research study, currently in pre-press,2 the research highlights the “importance of thinking about people living with neurodegenerative conditions, their care partners, relatives, and study partners as one unit when it comes to health care.” When someone is seen clinically for dementia or a neurodegenerative disease, it is critical that the focus be on the well-being of both the person living with the disease and their care partner.
To get a better understanding of the type and severity of care partner burden experienced, ONDRI study participants (across all diseases studied) completed the Zarit Caregiver Burden Interview.
When to worry about the care partner
ONDRI study results indicate that in their respective disease groups3, the following two key questions (out of 22 in the assessment) were critical and reflective of overall care burden and its impacts across individuals regardless of neurodegenerative disease group:
- Do you feel your relative is dependent on you?
- Are you afraid of what the future holds for your relative?
Why is this important?
Care partner burden and its impact on physical and other health measures is affected by several factors. ONDRI research indicates that each person’s experience with providing care is a truly unique and singular experience.
This analysis and its conclusions are important because they:
- Help to inform care partner education and training programs
- Can highlight areas for supporting care partners that may optimize overall health and well-being
- Can help clinicians know whom to refer over for appropriate services
“Just as each person with a neurological disease has unique symptoms, behaviours and rate of decline, each care partner has a different approach to the set of challenges they are presented (with)”, says Jill Czuczman, a care partner for her husband David, who is living with FTD and who participated in two of ONDRI’s observational studies.
Video: Jill Czuczman provides self-care tips, for care partners
To access closed captioning, or read the words, click on CC at bottom of the video
- This paper is currently in pre-press and not peer reviewed.
- Note: study participants tended to include people living at the earlier stages of most of the diseases studied.