An assessment of the relationship between informal caring and quality of life in older community-dwelling adults - more positives than negatives?

Julie Ratcliffe, Laurence H Lester, Leah Couzner, Maria Crotty
Health & Social Care in the Community 2013, 21 (1): 35-46
The main objective of the study was to apply the recently developed Index of Capability (ICECAP-O) instrument to measure and value the quality of life of a representative sample of the older South Australian population (aged ≥ 65 years) according to carer status. A Health Omnibus survey including the ICECAP-O instrument, carer status (informal carer vs. non-carer) and several socio-demographic questions was administered in 2009 as a face-to-face interview to 789 individuals aged 65 years or older in their own homes. A total of 671 individuals (85%) characterised themselves as a non-carer and 115 individuals (15%) characterised themselves as an informal carer. In general, carers exhibited relatively high quality of life as measured by the ICECAP-O, with carers having comparable mean ICECAP-O scores to non-carers in the general population [carers: mean (SD) 0.848 (0.123), non-carers: mean (SD) 0.838 (0.147)]. The results of the multivariate regression model for the total sample indicated statistically significant variations in overall ICECAP-O scores according to age (with younger participants tending to have slightly higher scores on average), country of birth (with those participants who were born in Australia having higher scores on average than those who were born elsewhere) and household income (with participants with higher income levels having higher scores on average). The results of the multivariate regression model differentiated by carer status also indicated some important differences. Specifically, average ICECAP-O scores were noticeably lower for carers who are separated or divorced and for carers who lived alone and these differences were statistically significant. The study findings provide support for the existence of process utility in informal care-giving. The provision of informal care may be associated with a positive impact upon quality of life for many caregivers, which may mediate the negative aspects arising from the burden associated with informal care-giving.

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