Psychological health in older adult spousal caregivers of older adults

Sherri L. Lavela, Nazneen Ather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Objectives: The need for informal caregiving has been rapidly increasing across several countries. Spouses comprise a sizeable segment of informal caregivers and typically represent an older cohort with special health concerns. The objective of this review was to examine psychological health outcomes in older adult spouses caring for older adults. Methods: Literature review/synthesis (1999-2009). Results: Compared to demographically matched married non-caregiving controls, older adult spousal caregivers experienced more cognitive functioning difficulties, strain, distress, stress, loneliness, depression, anxiety and poorer mental health. Caregivers of spouses with cognitive impairments, quite often wives, were especially affected by poor psychological health, as were caregivers who were new to the caregiving role and those who rated caregiving as stressful. Psychological health improved when the caregiving role ceased. Discussion: Several poor psychological outcomes were found in older adults caring for their spouses; the magnitude of which varied and were more pronounced under certain circumstances. To preserve caregiver health, maintain recipient health and care quality and avoid exceeding system of care capacity, efforts are needed to provide support to older adult spousal caregivers and recipients. Couples may need to be assessed as a unit, taking gender and cultural considerations into account, and additional resources may be required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-80
Number of pages14
JournalChronic Illness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Ageing
  • Caregiver
  • Morbidity
  • Psychological health
  • Spouses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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