Caregivers are more likely to experience negative psychological and physical health than individuals who do not provide care for an ailing family member. Research has shown that people who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia are at increased risk for depression and anxiety. Additionally, the stress associated with caregiving can lead to elevated blood pressure (BP) and put caregivers at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). There has been extensive research in the area of caregiving, and many interventions have been designed to improve the psychological well-being of caregivers. Varying tools have been used to measure the effectiveness of these approaches, but almost all the scales evaluate the number of pleasant events people participate in or the restrictions that they perceive prevent them from participating in certain activities. However, until recently, no scale has incorporated both of these elements. The Pleasant Events and Activity Restriction (PEAR) model is a relatively new tool that assesses both of these factors and considers how they influence overall psychological well-being.
Because psychological health directly impacts physiological health, Elizabeth A. Chattillion of the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at San Diego State University/University of California recently evaluated a group of 66 caregivers using the PEAR. Her goal was to ascertain if individuals who engaged in high levels of pleasant activities and had low levels of perceived restrictions (HPLR) would have lower BP than those with low pleasant activity participation and high perceived restriction (LPHR). Chatillion found that the participants with HPLR based on PEAR results had the lowest levels of negative mood, depression, anxiety, and blood pressure. In contrast, those in the LPHR group had higher levels of negative affect and higher BP. “These findings provide further support for the utility of the PEAR model and its association with negative caregiver outcomes,” said Chatillion. She believes that the results of this study also provide support for the use of behavioral activation techniques in order to help caregivers learn ways to engage in more pleasurable activities, regardless of whether they have perceived restrictions or not.
Chattillion, E. A., Ceglowski, J., Roepke, S. K., von Känel, R., Losada, A., Mills, P. J., et al. (2012). Pleasant events, activity restriction, and blood pressure in dementia caregivers. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029412
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