Burden, rewards, and coping—the ups and downs of caregivers of people with mental illness

Rita Bauer, Franziska Koepke, Linda Sterzinger, Hermann Spiessl
Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 2012, 200 (11): 928-34
Besides burden, we need to examine potential rewards of caregiving and coping strategies to determine effective means of supporting caregivers of people with mental illness. Therefore, we conducted semistructured interviews with 60 caregivers of patients with mental illness and analyzed the transcripts with a summarizing content analysis. The interviews focused on negative and positive aspects of providing care and on coping strategies; the latter was also evaluated with the Freiburg Questionnaire on Coping with Illness. The caregivers named 787 individual statements of burden and 413 individual statements of rewards. A factor analysis of the rewards identified growth in character as the main factor. The items with the highest factor loading are increase in self-confidence, inner strength, maturity, and life experience. Linear regression and regression tree analysis identified predictors for caregiver burden. To effectively reduce the burden on caregivers, we need knowledge about their concrete burdens. However, to optimize resource orientation, we must also pay much more attention to the potential rewards of caring.

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