Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

JoAnn T. Tschanz

Abstract

Using extant data from the Cache County Dementia Progression Study, this study examined the association of dementia caregivers’ personality traits (as assessed by the NEO Personality Inventory/Five Factor Inventory) and use of coping strategies (as reported on the Ways of Coping Checklist) with their care recipients’ outcomes including time to developing severe dementia, being institutionalized, and mortality. Up to 244 dyads of individuals with dementia and a primary caregiver were followed for a maximum of fifteen semi-annual visits, during which time information was collected on other potential caregiver and care recipient factors. The caregiver covariates analyzed in models included caregiver age, gender, kin relation to the care recipient, relationship closeness, and co-residency with care recipient. Potential care recipient covariates analyzed included gender, estimated onset age of dementia, completed education, and neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Individual caregiver personality traits were not predictive of the examined care recipient outcomes. Among the caregivers’ coping strategies, more frequent caregiver use of Avoidance predicted care recipient time to severe dementia (hazard ratio (HR)=1.065,p=.034). More frequent use of Counting Blessings predicted 36% lower hazard of care recipient mortality (HR=0.648,p=.017) when also accounting for the increased risk of mortality with older care recipient age at dementia onset (HR=1.052,p=.004).

Analyses revealed only low to moderate associations between some caregiver personality traits and coping strategies, with Neuroticism having the greatest number of significant associations with five emotion-focused coping strategies. Personality traits did not modify the associations between caregiver coping strategies (Avoidance and Counting Blessings) reported above.

Generally, the examined caregiver characteristics often assumed to be more stable (i.e. personality traits) were not predictive of care recipient outcomes, while caregivers’ use of some coping strategies was predictive of development of severe dementia and mortality in care recipients. This allows for the possibility that interventions aimed at encouraging dementia caregivers to use effective coping strategies may promote better outcomes for care recipients.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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