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Research Projects


Mindfulness based stress reduction for family caregivers of dementia patients (R01)

Dates: 5/15/2016 - 4/30/2024


Principal Investigator: Kathi Heffner, PhD

Influenza infection results in 41,000 deaths every year in the US and is the seventh leading cause of death. Strikingly, older adults, and especially those at risk for chronic medical disorders, account for approximately 90% of these deaths. Studies comparing influenza vaccine responses of older adults with those of young adults show that immune responses are significantly decreased in older adults. It is estimated that influenza vaccine efficacy is approximately 30-50% in older adults, compared to 70-90% in young-middle aged adults. Compounding this age-related decline in response to vaccination are findings that depression and chronic stress further impair older adults' immune responses to influenza vaccination. Caregiving for a family member with dementia is a robust stressor, and is associated with poor responses to influenza vaccination in older adults, as well as increased levels of proinflammatory biomarkers, which mediate many of the chronic diseases of aging. In this proposal, we consider the immunological consequences of the significant psychological distress experienced by older adult caregivers of family members with dementia.

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