Reducing Psychosocial Distress in Family Caregivers

  • Ann M. Steffen
  • Judith R. Gant
  • Dolores Gallagher-Thompson

Families remain the most common source of assistance for older adults with physical and/or cognitive limitations (National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons, 1997; Schulz & Martire, 2004). A national phone survey found that nearly one in four US households included at least one self-identified caregiver who gave unpaid assistance to an impaired or physically frail relative over the age of 50 (NAC/AARP, 1997). The term “caregiving” encompasses a wide range of activities, from management of medications and appointments to bathing, dressing, and toileting the individual. Typically, tasks change over time as the conditions in question either become more stable, deteriorate, or in some instances, improve. Family and friends often experience considerable stress when trying to provide extensive caregiving in addition to the other demands of their everyday lives – they are often referred to as the “sandwich generation” since many are caught in the middle between employment and the responsibilities of caring for their husbands and children (and perhaps grand-children), as well as the responsibilities of caring for an impaired parent or parent-in-law. Spouses also experience considerable distress, typically focusing on their sense of loss as changes occur in the marital relationship (Davidson, 2006). Although it is true that caregiving can occur in the context of any significant physical and/or emotional disorder, most of the intervention research has been conducted with relatives of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. In addition, studies have found that these dementia family caregivers are generally more distressed than caregivers of physically impaired elders (Ory, Yee, Tennstedt, & Schulz, 2000). Given space limitations, this chapter will focus on interventions with dementia family caregivers.


Family Caregiver Religious Coping National Alliance Spousal Caregiver Control Breathing 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann M. Steffen
    • 1
  • Judith R. Gant
    • 2
  • Dolores Gallagher-Thompson
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.University of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral ScienceStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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