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Women With PD Less Likely to Have Caregivers

December 07, 2017

A new study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that women with Parkinson disease (PD) are much less likely than men with PD to have caregivers, despite caregiver reports that say caring for male PD patients comes with greater strain.

These findings, based on data from a large study, were published in Neurology and was led by Nabila Dahodwala, MD, associate professor of neurology at Penn Medicine (Philadelphia, PA). In the University press release, Dr Dahodwala said, “Care provided by family and friends to people with Parkinson’s disease is an important source of support, and our findings show that women living with Parkinson’s are less likely to receive this support than men….We need strategies to improve women’s access to this support” (Penn Medicine news release. December 1, 2017).

The analysis was taken from a Notional Parkinson’s Foundation-funded study that has been ongoing since 2009 in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel, and includes 7209 patients.

According to the results, 88.4% of male patients reported having a caregiver upon enrollment in the study compared with 79.4% of female patients. Male patients were also more likely to be accompanied by their caregiver on their first visit to a study center. These types of disparities were persistent even when researchers adjusted the analysis to account for small differences between patient groups based on average age, disease duration, and other variables.

While the analysis was not trying to determine underlying reasons for disparities in caregiver support, prior studies have indeed found that women are less likely to have caregiver support in many other disabling conditions as well.

Dr Dahodwala added that as women typically live longer than men, they are more likely to be living alone when they are older. In addition, women are generally more likely than men to be caregivers, implying that even married female patients whose husbands are still living are less likely to receive care from their husbands. The analysis findings were consistent with these statistics, as 84% of men reported having their spouse as a caregiver compared with 67% of women.

The researchers are expanding upon this area of inquiry to identify specific causes of sex disparities in caregiver support for PD patients and how to correct those disparities. “Our overall goal is to develop tailored interventions to support caregivers and, in particular, to design innovative programs to improve outcomes for women with Parkinson’s disease,” Dr Dahodwala said.

—Amanda Del Signore

For more articles like this, visit the Parkinson Disease Resource Center

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