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Top Stroke Rehabil. 2013 Jul-Aug;20(4):369-78. doi: 10.1310/tsr2004-369.

Spouses of stroke survivors may be at risk for poor cognitive functioning: a cross-sectional population-based study.

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Kessler Foundation Research Center, West Orange, NJ, USA.



Stroke often results in chronic disability and the need for long-term assistance, which is provided in large part by spouses. Stroke caregivers experience poorer health and well-being compared with non-caregivers, but less is known about the specific toll that caregiving may exact on cognitive functioning.


To investigate whether persons caring for a spouse who experienced a recent stroke may be at risk for poor cognitive functioning compared with non-caregivers.


Existing data from the United States' Health and Retirement Study (HRS) were used to identify 146 caregivers from among couples in which 1 individual reported surviving a recent stroke and experiencing functional limitations. This cross-sectional population-based analysis compared the stroke caregivers with 3,416 non-caregivers in time orientation, working memory, semantic memory, learning, and episodic memory.


Overall, the caregiver group was considerably more disadvantaged than the non-caregiver group in terms of background characteristics, socioeconomic status, health, and well-being. Results of weighted Poisson regression models indicated that stroke caregivers were at risk for poorer performance than non-caregivers in working memory, semantic memory, learning, and episodic memory. The gap between stroke caregivers and non-caregivers in episodic memory remained after adjusting for systematic differences between the 2 groups across an array of risk factors.


Spousal caregivers of stroke survivors may be at risk for poor cognitive functioning. More work is needed to identify the processes that may contribute to the diminished cognitive capacity among these adults so that interventions may be developed to reduce caregiver burden and promote cognitive health.

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