Examining the relationship between autobiographical memory impairment and carer burden in dementia syndrome

Fiona Kumfor, Drusilla Teo, Laurie Miller, Suncica Lah, Eneida Mioshi, John R Hodges, Olivier Piguet, Muireann Irish

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Background: Autobiographical memory (ABM) refers to the capacity to remember one’s own past, and is known to be central for supporting one’s identity and sense of self. This capacity is commonly affected in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), as well as semantic dementia (SD) and behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD). Importantly, ABM plays a critical social function, facilitating relationship intimacy and empathy, and thus loss of ABM may also negatively affect families and carers.

Objective: To explore the relationship between ABM disruption and carer burden in AD, SD and bvFTD, and establish whether characteristic ABM profiles differentially relate to carer burden across dementia syndromes.

Methods: We recruited 12 AD, 10 SD and 13 bvFTD patients and their primary carer. All participants completed the Autobiographical Interview to assess memory for recent and remote events. Carers completed: the Zarit Burden Interview; Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21); and the Intimate Bond Measure (IBM).

Results: In AD, loss of recent ABM was associated with worse psychological wellbeing of carers on the DASS-21. In contrast in SD, remote ABM dysfunction was associated with SD patients showing greater controlling behaviour within their intimate relationships. In bvFTD, surprisingly, despite pervasive ABM impairment, no relationship between extent of ABM loss and carer burden was observed.

Conclusion: These preliminary results reveal that ABM impairment impacts on patients’ families and carers and suggest that these influences vary according to the pattern of ABM dysfunction. Disease-specific interventions focusing on preserved aspects of ABM may improve quality of life for both patients and carers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-248
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2016


  • frontotemporal dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • semantic dementia
  • wellbeing
  • quality of life
  • relationships

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