The number of elderly patients suffering with chronic heart failure (HF) is at epidemic proportions. Family caregivers provide the necessary care and support patients require at home. This study is the first to explore both caregiver and patient variables as they relate to caregiver burden, caregiver health-related quality of life (HRQL) and patient hospitalizations.
A structured interview approach was utilized with 50 primary HF caregivers to gain perceptions of caregiving related to caregiver burden and caregiver HRQL. Patient data were collected using medical records. Data were explored using standard multiple regression models to explain variance in caregiver burden, caregiver HRQL and patient hospitalizations.
Several caregiver characteristics and elements within the caregiving environment explained 51% of the variance in caregiver burden (p <.01). Caregiver age, multiple caregiver health problems, caregiver depressive symptoms, greater caregiver hours per week and multiple patient comorbidities were significant contributors. Caregiver burden explained 62% of the variance in caregiver HRQL (p <.01). Caregiver depression, multiple caregiver health problems and higher levels of patient disease severity contributed an additional 2% of variance to the caregiver HRQL model (p <.01). Caregiver family burden, increased care hours and levels of patient disease severity explained 27% of variance in patient hospitalizations (p <.01). Caregiver family burden alone explained 13% of the variance in the number of hospital days (p <.05). Caregivers who shared the role, respite caregivers, had significantly lower levels of caregiver family burden (p<.01) than sole caregivers.
A strong relationship between HF caregiver burden and caregiver HRQL is suggested by this study’s findings. It is critical that nurses assess and intervene to improve the lives of HF caregivers to protect and preserve the caregiver’s health. The importance of including caregiver outcomes in HF-related research is recommended by these findings, particularly, lack of perceived family support as it affects patient hospitalizations.