Appreciation Can Ease Stress of Spousal Caregiving

Older couple sitting outsideSpousal caregivers who feel appreciated by the care recipient feel better about their role, according to a study published in the journal Health Psychology.

In most contexts, helping others alleviates stress and improves well-being. A 2017 study, for example, found that just promising to help another person could make people happier. Research consistently shows caregiving is among the most demanding roles a person can adopt. Caregivers report high levels of stress and burnout and are more likely than non-caregivers to experience depression.

The study suggests highlighting the positive effects of their work may help caregivers reap the psychological benefits of helping others.

Appreciation Can Improve Caregiver Well-Being

The study involved two separate trials of spousal caregivers. For the first study, researchers recruited 73 caregivers, most of whom cared for a spouse with dementia. For seven days, participants reported on how frequently they helped their spouse, how happy the support made their partner, and how much their partner’s well-being improved. They also provided data on their daily moods. Caregivers who perceived their assistance as improving their partner’s well-being reported more positive affect.

For the second trial, 43 caregivers to spouses with chronic pain reported on their provision of emotional support to their partners. They also provided details on their own physical well-being and on how appreciated they felt by their partners. Spouses who offered emotional support experienced fewer physical symptoms when they perceived themselves as more appreciated.

Taken together, the studies suggest caregivers may be physically and emotionally healthier when they feel their spouses appreciate them. Appreciation may serve as proof that the support caregivers provide matters.

Supporting Caregivers and Care Recipients

Caregivers sometimes struggle to assert their own needs. More health care providers are recognizing that caregiver burnout is associated with negative outcomes for both caregivers and care recipients.

The study points to the role of the relationship between spouses as a potential target for health care providers. By addressing communication issues that make caregivers feel less appreciated, providers may be able to help caregivers as well as care recipients.

References:

  1. Burdens of spousal caregiving alleviated by appreciation, study finds. (2017, August 28). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170828105407.htm
  2. Monin, J. K., Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., & Langa, K. M. (2017). Spouse’s daily feelings of appreciation and self-reported well-being. Health Psychology. doi:10.1037/hea0000527

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  • Dodi

    Dodi

    September 12th, 2017 at 2:07 PM

    I am curious about how those who have to take care of someone who can’t communicate that they are grateful. Do they know that the person appreciates them? I think that a lot of this would be communicated by how they were treated before the person became sick and could no longer explain to them what they are feeling or thinking. Fair or unfair, there will be times when the behavior of the past will still play a large role.

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