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Caring for Patients with Empathic Accuracy Deficits

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry; ePub 2017 Oct 25; Brown, et al

Caring for a patient with deficits in empathic accuracy is associated with greater loneliness, strain, burden for caregivers, and increased depression, a recent study found. To that end, caregivers may benefit from interventions designed to compensate for the stress and interpersonal loss associated with patients' declining empathic accuracy. Researchers evaluated 2 independent samples (n=172, n=63) of patients with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases and their caregivers, plus a comparison group of healthy couples. They found:

  • Lower empathic accuracy in patients was associated with greater depression in caregivers in both studies.
  • In Study 1, this association was found when empathic accuracy was measured using the dynamic tracking measure but not when measured using the more traditional photograph and film measures.
  • In Study 2, there was preliminary support for the theoretical model wherein lower empathic accuracy in patients is associated with increased caregiver stress (loneliness, strain, and burden), which, in turn, is associated with greater caregiver depression.


Brown CL, Lwi SJ, Goodkind MS, et al. Empathic accuracy deficits in patients with neurodegenerative disease: Association with caregiver depression. [Published online ahead of print October 25, 2017]. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2017.10.012.

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