Treatment of late-life depression alleviates caregiver burden

Lynn M. Martire, Richard Schulz, Charles F. Reynolds, Jordan F. Karp, Ariel G. Gildengers, Ellen M. Whyte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Objectives: To describe the burden experienced by family caregivers of older adults with depression and to examine the positive effects on caregivers of treating late-life depression. Design: Two-phase treatment study for major depressive disorder (MDD) that included 6 weeks of open treatment with antidepressant medication for all older patients followed by 16 weeks of randomized treatment for patients who were partial responders, comparing a combination of medication and interpersonal psychotherapy with medication alone. Setting: Primary care and university late-life mental health research clinic. Participants: Adults aged 60 and older participating in a randomized trial for treatment of MDD who enrolled in a family caregiver study and their caregiver (N=244 dyads). Measurements: Improvement in patient symptoms during open treatment (lower scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD)) and remission of depression during randomized treatment (3 consecutive weekly HRSD scores of ≤7) were examined as predictors of lower general caregiver burden and burden specific to patient depression. Results: Caregivers reported a moderate to high level of general caregiver burden on average. Change in patient depression during open treatment was associated with significantly decreased depression-specific burden (β=-0.22, P=.001) and a trend toward lower general burden (β=-0.08, P=.08). Caregivers of patients who remitted showed significantly decreased depression-specific burden (F (1,76)=4.27, P=.04). Conclusion: Treatment of late-life depression has benefits that extend to the family members on whom patients depend. Caregiver education and support may strengthen these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Burden
  • Caregiver
  • Depression
  • Family
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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