Wednesday, January 19

A Grandchild for One Day Keeps Dementia Away


An intriguing study of 120 grandmothers might surprise you. Doctors know socially engaged people have better cognition and less dementia. But can a person get too much of a good thing? What's the right balance?

Taking care of grandchildren one day a week helps keep grandmothers mentally sharp, finds a study from the Women's Healthy Aging Project study in Australia, published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

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That's good news for women after menopause, when women need to lower their risks of developing Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive disorders.

On the other hand, taking care of grandchildren five days a week or more had some negative effects on tests of mental sharpness. "We know that older women who are socially engaged have better cognitive function and a lower risk of developing dementia later, but too much of a good thing just might be bad," said NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass, MD.

The 186 Australian women, ages 57 to 68, took three different tests of mental sharpness and also noted whether they thought their own children had been particularly demanding of them in the last year. Among the 120 grandmothers, those who spent one day a week taking care of grandchildren performed best on two of the three tests. But those taking care of grandchildren for five or more days a week did significantly worse on one of the tests, which assesses working memory and mental processing speed.

That was a finding the researchers didn't expect. However, they also found that the more time grandmothers spent taking care of the grandchildren, the more they felt that their children had been more demanding of them, so maybe mood plays a role in the unexpected result. The investigators are already following up with more research.

Although other research has looked at the relationship between mental sharpness and being socially engaged, this is the first time that this type of research has looked at grandmothering. "Because grandmothering is such an important and common social role for postmenopausal women, we need to know more about its effects on their future health," says Dr. Gass. "This study is a good start."


Journal Reference:
  1. Katherine F. Burn, Victor W. Henderson, David Ames, Lorraine Dennerstein, Cassandra Szoeke. Role of grandparenting in postmenopausal women’s cognitive healthMenopause, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000236

Comment or Share:

  1. My MIL is 82 & can only watch a baby for 10 mins & then NEVER alone. Nothing stops Alzheimer's & dementia! I think this article is a bit strange to say the least.

    1. I am 47 and have early on-set Alzheimer's and can't be around my grand children alone and for very long. I agree this study is strange!!

    2. The grandmothers in this article's study included people without dementia, who ended up having a lower risk of dementia.

    3. India has very very negligible level of dementia. That is because of family structure and the thing that most of the time Grandparents were caregivers for Grandchildten.

    4. The study include women who have not been diagnosed with dementia. It was a study to see if caring for children was either beneficial or causative of mental decline in post menopausal women.

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