Caregivers of chronically ill elderly: perceived burden.

Family members play a major role in providing caregiving assistance to elderly persons and their families. The effect of stressors on family members caring for a physically or mentally ill person has been referred to as caregiver burden. It is an important concern and will become more so with the inevitable aging of the population. Community health and home health nurses must be able to recognize those factors associated with caregiver burden to effectively render care to their clients and families. This study examined caregiver characteristics and the degree to which these variables affect caregiver burden. Although much research focuses on caregivers of Alzheimers clients, this research utilized a wider variety of client diagnoses to examine caregiver burden of those clients. A sample representing 88 caregivers of elderly chronically ill persons was obtained from various sources in the community. Demographic data about the caregiver was collected. The amount of burden they experienced was recorded using the Burden Interview (Zarit et al., 1986). This study found that there was a positive correlation between increased activities of care performed by the caregiver and caregiver burden. This included both the provision of direct care such as bathing and indirect care such as running errands, preparing meals, and performing housework. It was found that sons, as caregivers, reported significantly less burden than did daughters or other relatives. Community health and home health nurses working with families in a caregiving situation have an opportunity to reduce caregiver burden. This is done by assessment of the caregiving environment and implementation of plans for early intervention.

Source: J Community Health Nurs 1999 Winter;16(4):243-53

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