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Study: Caregivers often feel relief after Alzheimer's death

By Wire services
Published November 13, 2003

Taking care of a relative with Alzheimer's is so grueling that nearly three-quarters of those who do it are relieved when their loved one dies, a study found.

The study also found a year after the deaths, the caretakers were considerably less depressed than people who had put their Alzheimer's-stricken loved ones in a nursing home or other institution.

"You don't get this closure when you put someone in a long-term care facility. You don't get the release that people who have experienced the death of a loved one do," said researcher Richard Schultz of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

His study, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 217 people who cared for a spouse, parent or other relative at home until their deaths and 180 who began care at home but eventually put the Alzheimer's patient in an institution.

During the year before the death, half of the caregivers spent at least 46 hours a week caring for the patient, and 59 percent said they felt on call 24 hours a day.

Seventy-two percent of the caregivers said it was "somewhat" or "very much" a relief when their loved ones died. Schultz said it is important for people to know feelings of relief are normal and no reason to feel guilty.

- To read "Alone Together," a St. Petersburg Times story about the year in the life of an Alzheimer's support group, visit www.sptimes.com/alone/

Despite additions, more nurses needed, study says

An influx of older and foreign-born nurses has temporarily slowed a severe shortage of trained caregivers for hospitals, but researchers said Wednesday there is a tremendous need to increase the flow of registered nurses into the work force.

A study, based on Census Bureau employment surveys and published in the journal Health Affairs, found employment of registered nurses 50 and older rose by nearly 16 percent last year, to more than 63,000 of the 104,000 nurses hired.

Conversely, employment of nurses younger than 35 fell by 8 percent last year, and the number age 35-49, long considered the heart of the nursing corps, grew by 4.5 percent.

Fourteen percent, or more than 32,000 of the new hires, were foreign born, with an estimated 42 percent of them having entered the United States after 1996.

"This was a very large infusion of RNs, but there is no evidence that the shortage is over," said Peter Buerhaus, a professor and associate dean for research at the Vanderbilt School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn., and co-author of the report sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Experimental AIDS vaccine fails, maker says

SAN FRANCISCO - An experimental AIDS vaccine tested in Thailand on some 2,500 drug users failed to protect them from becoming infected with HIV, the vaccine's developer said Wednesday.

The poor results were widely expected since VaxGen Inc. had said earlier its vaccine did not work in a larger North American study. Two dozen vaccines are being tested on 12,000 human volunteers, but none has advanced as far as VaxGen's, and any successful candidate is years away.

Rheumatoid arthritis drug shows promise

An experimental drug designed to shut down the body's misguided assault on its joints is showing promise against rheumatoid arthritis, relieving its crippling effects with few if any side effects.

The drug, still in testing, neutralizes the immune system T cells that help direct the assault. In a study of 339 patients, CTLA4Ig was added to methotrexate - the standard drug - in arthritis sufferers who had not gotten enough relief from methotrexate and still had many swollen and painful joints.

After six months, 60 percent of the patients were feeling better - some of them dramatically so. Only 35 percent of the patients on methotrexate alone reported some relief.

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