Long-distance caregivers and stress Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cv43p042w

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  • Grounded in the life course perspective, this study examined stress among long-distance caregivers, asking whether stress levels vary by family relation to the care recipient or by geographic distance. A growing older adult population forecasts a corresponding need for caregivers. Although family members are the primary source of care for older adults, our population has seen high rates of mobility among both adult parents and their children, increasing the geographic distance between them. Given that the number of children per family has decreased, geographically distant children may be the only available family members to help frail, aging parents. Older adults without children available may have to rely on other family members, some of whom also live at a distance, in times of need. Caregivers who live at greater distances may have more difficulties providing care to their loved ones than those who live closer, and they may face greater stress than caregivers who live nearby. Further, because the child-parent relationship reflects the strongest kin obligation, child caregivers may have a higher likelihood of caregiver stress than nonchild caregivers. Research questions were addressed using data from a nationally representative survey of long-distance caregivers conducted in the Fall of 1996 by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) in collaboration with Matthew Greenwald and Associates of Washington, DC. Child caregivers (n=98), those whose care recipients are parents or step parents, were compared to nonchild caregivers (n=74), those whose care recipients are caring for grandparents, siblings, other relatives, or friends. Caregivers in both groups provided comparable care, such as helping with decision making, advice and information, making needed arrangements, and providing emotional support. Hierarchical multiple regression was used to assess the amount of variance explained by relation type and geographic distance after controlling for caregiver income, caregiving intensity, gender, care duration, and care recipient health. Bivariate relations suggested that caregivers with higher income give significantly less intense care, and that the passage of time may lessen stress for caregivers. Results of the multivariate analysis showed that relation to care recipient was a significant predictor of caregiver stress, with adult children showing higher levels of stress. Caregiver stress, however, was not greater for caregivers who lived farther away from care receivers. Using nationally representative data, the study documented the stress of long-distance caregivers, particularly adult children, thus suggesting the need for additional research and possibly programs to alleviate that stress.
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