COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Family caregiver quality of life in multiple sclerosis among Kuwaitis: a controlled study

Asmahan F Alshubaili, Jude U Ohaeri, Abdel W Awadalla, Asser A Mabrouk
BMC Health Services Research 2008, 8: 206
18840287

BACKGROUND: Research interest in the quality of life (QOL) of persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been spurred by the need to broaden outcome measures. Far less of this interest has been directed at the family caregivers, who bear most of the burden of care. The objectives of the study were: First, to compare the subjective QOL of family caregivers of persons with relapsing remitting and progressive MS, with those of a matched general population sample and caregivers of diabetes and psychiatric patients. Second, to assess the relationship of QOL with caregiver attitudes to MS and patient's variables.

METHODS: Consecutive MS clinic attendees were assessed with the 26 - item WHOQOL Instrument, and for depression and disability. Similarly, caregivers independently rated their own QOL as well as their impression of patients' QOL and attitudes to patients' illness.

RESULTS: The 170 caregivers, mean age 35.7 years, had no significant diagnostic differences in QOL domain scores and attitudes to MS. Caregivers had significantly lower QOL than the general population control group for five out of six domains and the general facet (P < 0.01), but higher QOL than the patients. When the scores were corrected for patients' depression and disability, caregivers had similar QOL with the general population group for four domains. Using corrected scores, MS caregivers had lower scores than diabetic and psychiatric caregivers in the physical, psychological and social relations domains. Majority expressed negative attitudes to MS. Caregiver QOL was more affected by their fear of having MS than their feelings about the illness and caregiving role. Caregiver attitudes had mostly no significant impact on their proxy ratings of patients' QOL. The significant predictor of caregivers' overall QOL was their impression of patients' QOL.

CONCLUSION: Caregivers need specific attention if they are less educated, unemployed, afraid of having MS and caring for patients with longer duration of illness and less education. In particular, attention to patients' depression and disability could improve caregivers' QOL. Caregivers need specific programs to address fear of having MS, negative attitudes to illness and their unmet needs.

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