How to be a Happy Caregiver
Stroke caregivers are happier when they continue to enjoy their own hobbies and interests, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
Stroke caregivers are happier when they continue to enjoy their own hobbies and interests, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. Researchers used questionnaires to assess the well-being of 399 family members caring for a stroke survivor after a year. Most of the caregivers were women (69 percent) who were married to the person they were caring for (70 percent). In a two-year follow-up, 80 of the caregivers completed the questionnaires again, and most of their answers remained similar to their initial responses. Researchers found that the happiest caregivers were:
- older (average age 58) and in better physical health;
- maintaining their own hobbies and activities;
- providing higher levels of assistance to stroke survivors; and
- caring for someone with less cognitive impairment, memory problems or depression.
Jill Cameron, Ph.D.
“I was most surprised that caregivers were happier when caring for a family member who survived a more severe stroke,” said Jill Cameron, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science at the University of Toronto. “But when a stroke is labeled mild, expectations are high and the issues are more subtle. That can cause more frustration because survivors of a mild stroke still have problems.”
Because stroke is a sudden event, survivors can often be home from the hospital just days or weeks afterwards, giving the family caregiver very little time to prepare.
“That might be one reason older caregivers are the most content,” Cameron said. “They’re more likely to be retired and less likely to have to juggle responsibilities of a job and children along with providing post-stroke care.”
Depression, cognitive issues and memory problems in the survivor had a negative impact on the well-being of the caregiver.
The caregiver’s attitude also impacts their happiness. If the caregiver feels they can handle taking care of their family member and that they will grow from the experience, and they continue to take part in activities that interest them, they are happier, she said.
Researchers said learning which factors led to more content caregivers will allow the healthcare system to make adjustments to better support stroke survivors and their families.
“If the family is doing better, that helps the patient do better,” Cameron said.