A new study of caregivers of veterans with chronic illness suggests family caregivers have high levels of stress but a relatively low prevalence of depression.
Experts say that veterans are almost twice as likely as the general public to have chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart failure. As such, informal or family caregivers are often needed to take the veteran to outpatient care facilities.
A University of Missouri researcher evaluated strain and satisfaction among informal caregivers of veterans with chronic illnesses. The findings show that more than one-third of veterans’ caregivers report high levels of strain as a result of taking care of their relatives; yet, on average, caregivers also report being satisfied with their caregiving responsibilities.
The majority of caregiving responsibilities belong to veterans’ immediate family members, often their wives, said Bonnie Wakefield, Ph.D., an associate research professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.
Of the caregivers Wakefield surveyed, nearly half reported they felt they had no choice when it came to caring for their relatives.
“Veterans with chronic illnesses have many care needs that often go unnoticed,” said Wakefield. “Caregivers help with those needs, such as cooking meals, managing medications and giving moral support.”
Wakefield discovered that while nearly a third of caregivers reported strain, only eight percent of caregivers reported that they had high levels of depression. Inadequate coping strategies and from caring for veterans with lower self-reported health were associated with caregivers’ depression and strain.
“Having a lot of caregiving demands doesn’t necessarily means that caregivers aren’t satisfied,” Wakefield said. “Some people get satisfaction from helping others.”
Caregivers who reported greater satisfaction tended to have more outside help, such as support from friends and relatives. Also, those with higher satisfaction levels had developed more strategies to cope, such as regular exercise.
Wakefield suggested caregivers seek outside assistance through websites like www.myhealth.va.gov and www.caregiver.va.gov, which provide health information and resources to veterans and their caregivers.
She also suggested that clinicians, especially nurses, take time to monitor caregivers’ stress levels and offer concrete suggestions about ways to alleviate stress.
The study is published in the journal Research in Nursing & Health.
Source: University of Missouri