Family caregiver social problem-solving abilities and adjustment to caring for a relative with vision loss

Jennifer K Bambara, Cynthia Owsley, Virginia Wadley, Roy Martin, Chebon Porter, Laura E Dreer
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 2009, 50 (4): 1585-92

PURPOSE: To examine the prevalence of persons at risk for depression among family caregivers of visually impaired persons and the extent to which social problem-solving abilities are associated with caregiver depressive symptomatology and life satisfaction.

METHODS: Family caregivers were defined as adults who accompanied their adult relative to an appointment at a low-vision rehabilitation clinic and self-identified themselves as the primary family caregiver responsible for providing some form of assistance for their relative due to vision impairment. Demographic variables, depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, caregiver burden, and social problem-solving abilities were assessed in caregivers. The patient's visual acuity and depressive symptoms and their relationship to the caregiver's depressive symptoms and life satisfaction were also examined.

RESULTS: Ninety-six family caregivers were enrolled. Of those, 35.4% were identified as at risk for depression. Among caregivers, dysfunctional or ineffective social problem-solving abilities were significantly associated with greater depressive symptomatology and decreased life satisfaction after adjustment for caregiver burden and demographic and medical variables for both the caregiver and the visually impaired patient. Problem orientation or motivation to solving problems was also significantly associated with caregiver depression and satisfaction with life.

CONCLUSIONS: A substantial number of caregivers of visually impaired adults experience psychosocial distress, particularly among those who possess poor social problem-solving abilities. These results underscore the need for routine screening and treatment of emotional distress among individuals caring for relatives with vision impairments. Future research should examine the extent to which psychosocial interventions targeting caregiver social problem-solving skills may be useful not only in improving caregiver quality of life but also in subsequently enhancing rehabilitation outcomes for the visually impaired care recipient.

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