The relationship between caregiver burden, caregivers' perceived health and their sense of coherence in caring for elders with dementia

Signe Andrén, Sölve Elmståhl
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2008, 17 (6): 790-9

AIM: The aim of this study is to examine associations between caregiver burden, perceived health and sense of coherence in family caregivers to persons with dementia living at home.

BACKGROUND: Most of the studies on family caregivers have focused on burden and morbidity. However, the caregiver's sense of coherence and perceived health have not been studied earlier in relation to caregiver burden.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional investigation design was used.

METHODS: Older persons, 2238 subjects, with any form of social services, were invited to an assessment of cognitive capacity. Those who had cognitive decline (255) were invited for a medical examination and 130 persons were diagnosed as having dementia. The family caregivers to persons with dementia answered a questionnaire including a caregiver burden scale, the Nottingham health profile scale, sense of coherence scale and the Euroqol instrument.

RESULTS: The family caregivers experienced moderate burden, and strong associations were noted between burden, especially isolation, disappointment and emotional involvement with perceived health and sense of coherence, adjusted for age and relationship. Caregivers with lower burden reported significantly better perceived health and higher mean score of sense of coherence than caregivers with higher burden.

CONCLUSIONS: Assessment of status of family caregivers of persons with dementia living at home seems to be gaining considerable importance. The caregiver burden scale and the sense of coherence scale seem to be highly useful for identifying carers at risk of stress, pattern of burden and coping strategies.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Nurses can help family caregivers to identify their negative experiences about caregiving and can help them reflect upon their coping strategies to find balance in their situation. Risk groups of caregivers may be identified, especially those with low perceived health and sense of coherence, for early interventions to reduce burden.

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