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You’d probably be rather surprised to find out just how much cohabitation in and of itself can affect your own mental health on a biological level. We’re not just talking about the germs you encounter from your partner or roommate. This is more about the physiological phenomenon of how diseases that aren’t even contagious can be severely delayed in checking themselves out simply because of cohabitation. Although, we’re also looking at the psychological ramifications of cohabitation that can lead to personality changes in general. New studies independent of each other suggest that dementia patients don’t get evaluated near the onset of dementia most of the time, partly because of cohabitation, and this is significant because early onset treatment is the most important in this case.
The dementia study was conducted by an interdisciplinary neurology team from Spectrum Health, and they found that home-based care might improve detection and screening for dementia in light of how the lack of these things seems to be statistically panning out. They looked at 110 arbitrarily selected initial evaluations conducted by the Spectrum Health Medical Group Neurocognitive Clinic from 2008 to 2015. They observed that 78.9 percent of the evaluated patients already had moderate to severe dementia by the time they were diagnosed in the first place. “The findings indicate that people are living with dementia for significant periods of time before seeking diagnosis and treatment,” according to Timothy Thoits, lead author on the study and Spectrum Health’s neurology division chief.
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not forget, though, that it’s also well known that women who live together can have effects on each other’s menstrual cycles. In an unrelated yet somewhat parallel way, married couples can affect each other’s personalities, and a new study from Justin Lavner and his team goes as far as to say that the first year and a half after marriage is when the bulk of this gets done. Lavner’s a University of Georgia psychologist, and his study addresses a rather divisive question among psychologists about whether personality is congenital by DNA or molded by childhood experiences.
Lavner and his team got 169 couples to answer surveys at three distinct milestones in the courses of their marriage: six months, 12 months and 18 months. This was how they tracked actual changes in personality over time. Each partner filled out two questionnaires at each milestone, and personality was boiled down to what psychologists call the Big Five: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—commonly referred to by the acronym, OCEAN.
At the 18-month milestone, the team found all kinds of trends with respect to each of these personality traits. Both spouses were found to be less open, which sounds worse than it is because they might, by this point, be reflecting their mutual acceptance for the perfunctoriness of marriage. Husbands were found to be a lot more conscientious while wives stayed about the same, though researchers note that women tended to register higher conscientiousness scores at the start. Both spouses also statistically proved to be more introverted by this point, which previous studies suggest reflects their behavior toward friends from single life more than their behavior toward each other.
These are all essentially just markers of how personality does, indeed, morph as a result of cohabitation, and they partly explain why loved ones can tell better than anyone else when it might be time for you to see someone about what could be the onset of dementia. “The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier treatment can begin and the earlier the benefit to the patient and his or her family and caregivers,” Thoits added when discussing the Spectrum Health study of dementia. That study didn’t link cohabitation to earlier diagnoses at all, and previous studies have found the relationship between the severity of dementia upon diagnosis and cohabitation to be rather controversial among experts. Some report patients living alone averaging earlier diagnoses while others show patients living with offspring being diagnosed earlier. None of this is cut and dry.
The Spectrum Health study suggests that certain lifestyle changes, though, can be correlated with earlier diagnosis, which indicates that elderly people with lifestyles that already incorporate these things are more likely to get the early help they need to greatly assuage the worst effects of dementia. The paper lists financial assistance, medication assistance, institutional care and driving restrictions as the optimal lifestyle changes that, at the very least, need to be implemented upon diagnosis. The team gave these suggests, for example, to about 75.8 percent of dementia patients upon diagnosis.
The study also found that “an increase in home-based, patient-centered medical care, regardless of the patient’s living status, may be one way to improve recognition of cognitive deficits and increase the frequency of important and necessary early cognitive evaluations.” The WHO, mind you, defines home-based care as “any form of assistance provided to a sick person referred to as the patient directly in the home by family, friends, and members of the local community, cooperating with the advice and support from the trained health workers.”