Researchers recently used data from two major surveys of aging and caregiving to categorize caregiving experiences into five types, and to identify the prevalence of each type in the US informal caregiving population. This analysis characterized each type of experience with unique combinations of caregiving burdens and benefits.
The first experience type was “Intensive,” characterized as having the highest perceived burden: emotionally, socially, interpersonally, and physically. But the moderate emotional, interpersonal, and cognitive/behavioral benefits reported are similar to those reported by caregivers reporting little to no burden. About 10% of informal caregivers fall into this group.
The second type was “Balanced Caregivers,” who reported moderate burden and high benefits. Unlike Intensive Caregivers, caregiving does not appear to interfere with their social activities. These make up about 18% of informal caregivers.
Next are “Dissatisfied Caregivers.” The burden of this group is similar to Intensive and Balanced Caregivers, but they don’t report any benefits associated with caregiving. They make up 15% of the informal caregiving population.
The remaining two types consist of caregivers experiencing primarily benefits. “Relationship Caregivers” are characterized by low burden and high benefits. Here, the burden is primarily interpersonal (recipients arguing or getting on nerves) and benefits are interpersonal and emotional. These make up 26% of caregivers.
Last are “Satisfied Caregivers” who only report benefits, which span multiple domains. Perhaps surprisingly, these make up about 32% of caregivers.
As for predictors of being in each of these groups, a one point increase in depressive symptom scores was associated with approximately 50% less chance of being in the Balanced, Relationship, or Satisfied group. Caregivers of individuals with more than three diagnoses were more likely to be Dissatisfied Caregivers. Caregivers providing more hours of care (20 to 63 hours per week) were more likely to be Intensive or Balanced Caregivers, suggesting that alongside the burden, some benefits come from the large amount of time spent with recipients. Additionally, African American and nonrelative caregivers were more likely to report benefits from caregiving. On the other hand, caregivers who were older, long-term, or co-residing were more likely to perceive caregiving as a burden.
These findings provide additional evidence for a wide variety of caregiver experiences and can potentially help in identifying caregiver groups that might benefit most from support services.