A longitudinal study of grieving in family caregivers of people with dementia

Shuter, Patricia Elizabeth (2012) A longitudinal study of grieving in family caregivers of people with dementia. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

A longitudinal study of grieving in family caregivers of people with dementia Recent research into dementia has identified the long term impact that the role of care giving for a relative with dementia has on family members This is largely due to the cognitive decline that characterises dementia and the losses that can be directly attributed to this. These losses include loss of memories, relationships and intimacy, and are often ambiguous so that the grief that accompanies them is commonly not recognised or acknowledged.

The role and impact of pre-death or anticipatory grief has not previously been widely considered as a factor influencing health and well-being of family caregivers.

Studies of grief in caregivers of a relative with dementia have concluded that grief is one of the greatest barriers to care giving and is a primary determinant of caregiver well-being. The accumulation of losses, in conjunction with experiences unique to dementia care giving, place family caregivers at risk of complicated grief. This occurs when integration of the death does not take place following bereavement and has been associated with a range of negative health outcomes.

The aim of this research was to determine the influence of grief, in addition to other factors representing both positive and negative aspects of the role, on the health related quality of life of family caregivers of people with dementia, prior to and following the death of their relative with dementia.

An exploratory research project underpinned by a conceptual framework of caregivers’ adaptation in the context of subjective appraisal of the strains and gains in their role was undertaken. The research comprised three studies. Study 1 was a scoping study that involved a series of semi-structured interviews with thirteen participants who were family caregivers of people with severe dementia or whose relative with dementia had died in the previous twelve months. The results of this study in conjunction with factors identified in the literature informed data collection for the further studies.

Study 2 was a cross sectional survey of fifty caregivers recruited when their relative was in the moderate to severe stage of dementia. This study provided the baseline data for Study 3, a prospective cohort follow up study. Study 3 consisted of seventeen participants followed up at two time points after the death of their relative with dementia: six weeks and then six months following the death of the relative with dementia.

The scoping study indicated that differences in appraisal of the care giving role and encounters with health professionals were related to levels of grief of caregivers prior to and following the death of the relative with dementia. This was supported in the baseline and follow up studies. In the baseline study, after adjusting for all variables in multivariate regression models, subjective appraisal of burden was found to make a significant contribution (p<.05) to mental health related quality of life. The two dependent variables, anticipatory grief and mental health related quality of life, were significantly (p<.01) correlated at a bivariate level. In the follow up study, linear mixed modelling and multiple regression analysis of data found that subjective appraisal of burden and resilience were significantly associated (p<.05 and p<.01, respectively) with mental health related quality of life over time. In addition, bereavement and complicated grief were significantly associated (p<.05) with mental health following the death of the relative. In this study social support and satisfaction with end of life care were found to be statistically associated (p<.05) with physical health related quality of life over time.

The strong relationship between grief of caregivers and their health related quality of life over the entire care giving trajectory and period following the death of their relative highlights the urgent need for further research and interventions in this area. Overall results indicate that addressing the risk and protective factors including subjective appraisal of their care giving role, resilience, social support and satisfaction with end of life care of their relative, has the potential to both ameliorate negative health outcomes and to promote improved health for these caregivers. This research provides important information for development of targeted and appropriate interventions that aim to promote resilience and reduce the personal burden on caregivers of people with dementia.

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ID Code: 60967
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Edwards, Helen & Beattie, Elizabeth
Keywords: anticipatory grief, complicated grief, dementia, family caregivers, health related quality of life, longitudinal study
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 27 Jun 2013 03:02
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:35

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