While informal caregiving (typically unpaid and provided by family, friends, and volunteers) can be emotionally and physically challenging, it can also be rewarding and provide benefits. A recent study investigated the differences between the health and well-being of current, former, and “never” older adult caregivers.
The researchers conducted a survey of persons age 65 and better who were recruited from a university-affiliated lifelong learning club, church and community-affiliated caregiver support organizations, and through contacts of survey respondents. A total of 186 individuals completed a survey, with 41 completing it on paper and 145 filling it out online. Participants were asked about caregiver status, health problems, depression, satisfaction with health, and well-being. Well-being included the ability to fulfill daily activities (such as meal preparation and respite) for themselves. Of the survey respondents, 60 had never been a caregiver, 29 were former caregivers, and 56 were currently informal caregivers.
Overall, the research findings suggest that late-life caregiving may have a negative impact on health and well-being. After accounting for individual characteristics, study results showed that individuals who had never been a caregiver were more likely to be satisfied with their health than were current caregivers. This finding was expected, given that these individuals have more time to attend to their health and don’t have potentially stressful caregiving responsibilities. In addition, individuals who were former caregivers reported better well-being than current caregivers. However, there were no significant differences in depression between the groups.
While more research is needed to confirm these results, the findings point to the importance of supporting older adult caregivers. The study authors said that caregiver status could be routinely identified in health care settings. Providing resources to older adult caregivers, such as support groups and respite care, may help to offset the potential negative impacts on health and well-being.
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LaManna JB, Unruh L, Chisholm L, Pericles P, Fotovvat H. Perceptions of health and well-being among older adult caregivers: Comparisons of current caregivers with former and never caregivers. Geriatric Nursing, (2020); Feb 8.