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A Grandchild for One Day Keeps Dementia Away

Grandmother in black and white striped shirt hugging girl in black and white striped shirt
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? (Video+Article)

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).

Continued below video…

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

Too Much of a Good Thing?

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.

More Time, More Demands?

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.

A Good Start

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.”


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MaryGeake
MaryGeake
April 16, 2014 2:50 pm

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.

Cathy
Cathy
Reply to  MaryGeake
April 17, 2014 12:17 am

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!!

AlzWeekly.com
AlzWeekly.com
Reply to  MaryGeake
April 17, 2014 8:28 pm

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

Day Dreamer
Day Dreamer
Reply to  MaryGeake
April 28, 2014 2:27 pm

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.

Unknown
Unknown
Reply to  MaryGeake
December 21, 2015 10:21 pm

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.

maegan@healthline.com
maegan@healthline.com
November 18, 2016 4:21 pm

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friend to all
friend to all
July 17, 2018 6:22 pm

I vote for Alzheimer's and Dementia weekly!!!! My mother and older twin sisters had and have, this condition, and this is my go to site for everything! I especially like the Teepa Snow videos.

Unknown
Unknown
Reply to  friend to all
June 17, 2021 12:39 pm

Yes! Love Teepa Snow. Such a blessing when i found her!

Lea
Lea
December 31, 2023 8:42 pm

Perhaps having grandchildren 5 days a week is associated with other poor health habits, like eating excessive sugar. It would be nice to try to control for lifestyle habits.

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. It has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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