September 7, 2017 – Burdens of spousal caregiving alleviated by appreciation, study finds
The fact that spouses often become caregivers for their ailing partners is quite common in American life — and few roles are more stressful.
Yet helping behaviors, which are at the core of caregiving, typically relieve stress, according to Michael Poulin, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Psychology.
When discussing spousal care, the draining demands of caregiving and the uplifting effects of helping stand in apparent contrast to one another.
But recent research shows that the time caregivers spend actively helping a loved one can improve the caregiver’s sense of well-being — and now, Poulin, an expert in empathy, human generosity and stress, is part of a research team that has published a study exploring why that’s the case.
Their research points to the specific conditions necessary to alleviate the burdens of spousal caregiving.
“Spending time attempting to provide help can be beneficial for a caregiver’s mental and physical well-being, but only during those times when the caregiver sees that their help has made a difference and that difference is noticed and recognized by their partner,” he says.
“These conclusions are important because we know that spousal caregiving is an enormous burden, emotionally, physically and economically,” he says. “If we can find ways for community resources to help create those conditions we might be able to make a difference in the lives of millions of people.”
The findings of the study, led by Joan Monin, Yale School of Public Health, Stephanie Brown, Stony Brook University, Kenneth Langa, University of Michigan, and Poulin, appear in the American Psychological Association’s journal Health Psychology.