Longitudinal study: understanding the lived experience of couples across the trajectory of dementia

BMC Geriatr. 2021 Oct 15;21(1):558. doi: 10.1186/s12877-021-02503-4.


Background: The longitudinal study, "Couples Lived Experiences," focuses on whether and how relationship characteristics of older couples change with the cognitive decline of one member of the couple, and how these changes affect each individual's emotional and physical health outcomes. Until now, most psychosocial research in dementia has focused either on the person with dementia (PWD) or the caregiver separately. The previous literature examining relationship characteristics and their role in outcomes for the caregiver and PWD is scant and suffers from methodological issues that limit the understanding of which relationship characteristics most influence outcomes for caregivers and care-receivers and what other factors may mitigate or exacerbate their effects.

Methods: We will enroll 300 dyads and collect information via online interviews of each member of the couple, every 6 months for 3 years. Relationship characteristics will be measured with a set of short, well-validated, and reliable self-report measures, plus the newly developed "Partnership Approach Questionnaire." Outcomes include global quality of life, subjective physical health, mental health (depression and anxiety), and status change (transitions in levels of care; i.e., placement in a nursing home). Longitudinal data will be used to investigate how relationship characteristics are affected by cognitive, functional, and behavioral changes, and the impact of these changes on health outcomes. Qualitative data will also be collected to enrich the interpretation of results of quantitative analyses.

Discussion: Psychosocial interventions have demonstrated effectiveness in promoting the wellbeing of PWD and their caregivers. The knowledge gained from this study can lead to the development or enhancement of targeted interventions for older couples that consider the impact of cognitive and functional decline on the relationship between members of a couple and thereby improve their wellbeing.

Trial registration: This study has been registered with ClinicalTrials.gov. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier is: NCT04863495 .

Keywords: Alzheimer’s; Couples; Dementia; Older adults; Psychosocial factors; Relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Dementia* / diagnosis
  • Dementia* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Health
  • Quality of Life*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04863495