Health issues may affect grandmothers who are primary caregivers

CLEVELAND (November 10, 2004) Grandmothers who are caregivers to grandchildren are more prone to stress and depressive symptoms than non-caregivers according to the latest research by Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. Carol Musil, associate professor of nursing at Case, is leading an ongoing National Institutes of Health-funded study which examines the effects of caregiving on the health of 450 Ohio grandmothers, as well as how it impacts their families.

In a four-year study, which began in 2001 and will conclude in 2005, grandmothers who are the primary caregivers of children reported to Case researchers they had experienced greater stress and more depressive symptoms than non-caregivers.

"These are older women who may have health needs of their own," said Musil. "So caring for a grandchild who may have health problems, developmental challenges or an increased need for care creates additional stress for these grandparents."

The ages of the children may make a difference: younger children are physically demanding but older children often require more emotional and psychological energy.

The study includes comparison groups of grandmothers living in multigenerational homes and non-caregiver grandmothers, and examines the links between the women and their families in terms of overall stress, health and well-being. Its goal is to understand how to help these women stay healthy as the aging population rises in the United States. The other objective is to help identify factors, including skills such as resourcefulness, that may moderate the effects of stress on health regardless of caregiving responsibilities to grandchildren. Adequate emotional and physical support for these grandmothers, say researchers, will make a dramatic difference in their health and ability to provide care for their grandchildren.

Prior studies have shown that more active coping resulted in better health for caregiving grandmot

Contact: Laura Massie
Case Western Reserve University

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