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Keywords:

  • family caregiver;
  • caregiving experience;
  • aged;
  • home care;
  • follow-up

Scand J Caring Sci; 2012; 26; 211–218

Impact of caregiving on Finnish family caregivers

Background:  Numerous studies have examined the caregiver burden that family caregivers often experience. However, caregiving situations may also include positive elements that have recently received greater research attention.

Aim:  The aim was to examine the positive value and negative impact of caregiving for the family caregiver.

Method:  Caregiving experience was measured with the modified 15-item Carers of Older People in Europe Index. Surveys were completed by family caregivers at the baseline and after 6 months.

Results:  At the baseline, most family caregivers thought that caregiving was worthwhile, had a good relationship with the person they cared for and coped well as a caregiver. Fifty-five per cent of the respondents did not feel trapped in their caregiver role, though a third did, and a majority found caregiving to be too demanding. Most perceived themselves to be supported by their family, while 40% did not feel supported by health and social services. During the 6-month study period, the negative impact score declined, and the scores for positive value and quality of support improved. The care recipient’s management at home (p < 0.001) was the single best predictor of the negative impact on the family caregiver; the family caregiver’s older age (p < 0.01) best predicted the quality of support; and the family caregiver’s good relationship with the care recipient (p < 0.01) best predicted the positive value of caregiving.

Conclusions:  The study indicated that even if the health status of the care recipient dramatically worsened, the family caregiver’s experiences of caregiving became more positive. This is because family caregiving was perceived to be worthwhile, most family caregivers had a close relationship with the person they cared for and they received support from their family. Interventions that focus on family caregivers’ positive experiences of caregiving would be important in protecting them from the negative consequences of caregiving.