Correlates of wellbeing of spousal and children carers of disabled people over 65 in Spain

A Llácer, M V Zunzunegui, P Gutierrez-Cuadra, F Béland, S H Zarit
European Journal of Public Health 2002, 12 (1): 3-9

BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to evaluate the associations between carer's wellbeing and stressors and to assess if these associations are different for spousal and children carers of disabled elderly.

METHODS: Information was collected by home interviews of a population sample of carers (N = 195), who were providing assistance in activities of daily living to a community-dwelling population over 65. Associations between indicators of wellbeing (number of depressive symptoms, number of physical symptoms, self-perceived health and life satisfaction) and caring stressors were examined, controlling for carer's socio-economic characteristics and health status. Hierarchical logistic regressions were used to fit the data. Religion and social support were included as resources and spousal and children differential associations were tested.

RESULTS: The four indicators of wellbeing are moderately correlated, indicating a common underlying concept. Spousal carers have lower socio-economic status, poorer health and lower levels of wellbeing than children carers. However, children carers bear a significantly greater burden. In the multivariate analysis of the associations between wellbeing and stressors, the similarities between spouse and adult child carers are more striking than the differences. Emotional support was consistently associated with higher levels of wellbeing while the associations of religiosity and instrumental support with wellbeing did not reach statistical significance.

CONCLUSION: As formal care services are being developed in Spain, their ability to work in a supportive way with family networks should be taken into account. Research should be carried out on patterns of formal care interventions that use the resources in the natural support network of the family.

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