Examining the Relationship Between Autobiographical Memory Impairment and Carer Burden in Dementia Syndromes

J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;51(1):237-48. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150740.


Background: Autobiographical memory (ABM) refers to the capacity to remember one's own past, and is known to be central for supporting one's identity and sense of self. This capacity is commonly affected in Alzheimer's disease (AD), as well as semantic dementia (SD) and behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD). Importantly, ABM plays a critical social function, facilitating relationship intimacy and empathy, and thus loss of ABM may also negatively affect families and carers.

Objective: To explore the relationship between ABM disruption and carer burden in AD, SD, and bvFTD, and establish whether characteristic ABM profiles differentially relate to carer burden across dementia syndromes.

Methods: We recruited 12 AD, 10 SD, and 13 bvFTD patients and their primary carer. All participants completed the Autobiographical Interview to assess memory for recent and remote events. Carers completed: the Zarit Burden Interview; Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21); and the Intimate Bond Measure (IBM).

Results: In AD, loss of recent ABM was associated with worse psychological wellbeing of carers on the DASS-21. In contrast in SD, remote ABM dysfunction was associated with SD patients showing greater controlling behavior within their intimate relationships. In bvFTD, surprisingly, despite pervasive ABM impairment, no relationship between extent of ABM loss and carer burden was observed.

Conclusion: These preliminary results reveal that ABM impairment impacts on patients' families and carers and suggest that these influences vary according to the pattern of ABM dysfunction. Disease-specific interventions focusing on preserved aspects of ABM may improve quality of life for both patients and carers.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; quality of life; relationships; semantic dementia; wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Behavioral Symptoms / etiology*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Memory Disorders / psychology
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Statistics as Topic