Informal Caregiving for Older Americans: An Analysis of the 2011 National Study of Caregiving. Caregiving, Health, Participation and Well-being

04/01/2014

Interest in informal caregivers often focuses more on their contributions to care-recipients and society than on the well-being of caregivers themselves. This final section considers how subjective well-being and perceived negative aspects of caregiving relate to intensity, as measured by the number of hours of care provided, to caregiver health status, and to the ability to participate in valued activities. Figure 1, Figure 2 and Figure 3 plot mean well-being scores (left axis scale) and mean score for negative aspects of caregiving (right axis scale) against the mean monthly hours of care provided, self-reported health, and the number of activities for which caregivers reported limited participation in the last month because of caregiving. Positive aspects of caregiving are not shown because they were essentially invariant, with mean scores very close to six out of the maximum eight across all measures and categories. Again, this suggests that gains from caregiving may in some sense balance burdens, but that high levels of perceived gains often accompany high perceived levels of burdens.

 

FIGURE 1. Well-Being and Negative Aspects of Caregiving by Hours of Care Provided

FIGURE 1. Well-Being and Negative Aspects of Caregiving by Hours of Care Provided

Figure 1 suggests a straightforward association of caregiving intensity, as measured by greater hours of care, with reduced well-being and higher perceived burden (Figure 1). As hours of care rise, average well-being scores decline monotonically, and perceived negative aspects of caregiving increase monotonically.

 

 

FIGURE 2. Well-being and Negative Aspects of Caregiving by Self-Reported Health Status

FIGURE 2. Well-being and Negative Aspects of Caregiving by Self-Reported Health Status

FIGURE 3. Well-Being and Negative Aspects of Caregiving by Participation Restriction

FIGURE 3. Well-Being and Negative Aspects of Caregiving by Participation Restriction

Both lower health status (Figure 2) and a larger number of participation restrictions because of caregiving (Figure 3) are associated with far larger declines in subjective well-being than seen for intensity of caregiving in Figure 1. However, although those in fair or poor health were more likely than others to report substantial negative aspects (Table 8), on average increased perception of burden with poorer health status is modest relative to that seen for intensity of caregiving. Conversely, mean scores for negative effects of caregiving increase dramatically as the number of participation restrictions increases, from an average 1.7 out of eight for those with no participation restrictions to an average of five for those with restrictions in 3-4 valued activities.

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