BACKGROUND: This study was motivated by the growth in the number of elderly with dementia and consequent need to help family caregivers who face the daily stress for long periods of time. The aim was to describe the frequency of some common psychosomatic symptoms in self-assessed health status and to determine whether there are gender differences in these symptoms and the perception of one´s own health in family caregivers.
METHODS: The first results of cross-sectional survey design as the first phase of a longitudinal cohort study are presented. The participants in this investigation (n=73) were family caregivers of outpatients suffering from moderate (59 cases = 80.8%) or mild (14 cases = 19.2%) stage of Alzheimer´ s disease (AD).
RESULTS: The group of caregivers consisting of 61 (83.6%) women and 12 men (16.4%). Participants of this study were recruited from the Department of Psychiatry, Prague, Czech Republic. Data from caregivers were collected by using a self-administered questionnaire containing various items to measure self-perceived health including some common psychosomatic symptoms in relationship with their caregiving role.
CONCLUSIONS: The following symptoms appeared the most frequent among family caregivers: chronic fatigue and sleeping disturbances. Most caregivers of patients with moderate stage of AD evaluated their own health as poor and experienced more symptoms in comparison with caregivers of patients with mild stage of Alzheimer´s disease, who scored their own health as good or very good. A follow-up of the survey population seems to be necessary.