Characteristics and Correlates of Caregivers’ Perceptions of Their Family Members’ Memory Loss

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Abstract

Background

Understanding caregiver’s perceptions of their family member’s memory loss is a necessary step in planning nursing interventions to detect and address caregiver burden.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to characterize caregivers’ perceptions of their family members’ memory loss and identify potential correlates within Leventhal’s common sense model (CSM).

Methods

This secondary analysis used baseline data from a larger randomized controlled trial. Patients with memory loss and their caregivers (N = 83 dyads) from the community were included. The adapted Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (BIPQ) assessed caregivers’ illness perceptions. Eight additional instruments measured correlates within the CSM. Responses were described; multiple linear regression was used to predict BIPQ dimension scores, and logistic regression was used to predict dichotomized BIPQ scores.

Results

Most caregivers were female, White, and spouses of the patients; they reported a range of perceptions on the nine BIPQ dimensions. Patients’ cognitive function consistently emerged as a significant correlate of caregivers’ illness perceptions, explaining the most variance in caregivers’ perceived consequences, identity, and treatment control (p < .01). Caregivers’ reactions to patients’ behavioral symptoms and caregivers’ trait anxiety were associated with perceived illness coherence (p < .01). Caregivers with higher severity of daily hassles and White caregivers perceived that their family members’ memory loss would last longer (p < .001).

Discussion

Caregivers’ perceptions of family members’ memory loss varied; distinct dimensions of caregivers’ illness perception were associated with a range of clinical and psychosocial factors. This exploratory study demonstrates the complexity of applying the CSM to caregivers of persons with memory loss.

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