Subjective burden among spousal and adult-child informal caregivers of older adults: results from a longitudinal cohort study

Marloes Oldenkamp*, Mariët Hagedoorn, Joris Slaets, Ronald Stolk, Rafael Wittek, Nynke Smidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Pressures on informal caregivers are likely to increase due to increasing life expectancy and health care costs, which stresses the importance of prevention of subjective burden. The present study examined the correlates of overall subjective burden and multiple burden dimensions among spousal and adult-child caregivers of Dutch older adults, both cross-sectional and longitudinal (12-months follow-up).

Methods: In 2010 and 2011 baseline and follow-up data was collected in a sample of informal caregivers and care recipients in the Northern provinces of the Netherlands. Subjective burden included 7 burden dimensions and a summary score for overall subjective burden, based on the Care-Related Quality of Life Instrument (CarerQoL-7D). Objective stressors were the time investment in caregiving (hours of household care, personal care, practical care) and the health situation of the care recipient, including multimorbidity, functional limitations (Katz Index of Independence Basic Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL), and cognitive functioning problems (EQ-5D + C). Correlates of subjective burden were evaluated with linear and logistic regression analyses.

Results: The sample consisted of 356 caregivers at baseline (43% spousal, 57% adult-child caregivers), and 158 caregivers at follow-up (45% spousal, 55% adult-child caregivers). At baseline and follow-up, spousal caregivers experienced a higher overall subjective burden, and reported more often mental health problems, physical health problems, and problems with combining daily activities, compared to adult-child caregivers. For spousal caregivers, a poorer health situation of the care recipient was associated with higher subjective burden, while adult-child caregivers reported higher levels of subjective burden when their time investment in caregiving was high. Subjective burden at follow-up was mainly explained by baseline subjective burden.

Conclusions: These results indicate that for effective caregiver support, it is crucial to take the type of care relationship into account, since the level and correlates of overall subjective burden and burden dimensions varied for spousal and adult-child caregivers. In addition, reducing subjective burden will also positively impact the subjective burden over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number208
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7-Dec-2016


  • Caregiving
  • Burden
  • Spouses
  • Adult children
  • Longitudinal studies

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