BACKGROUND: In complying with required life style changes Heart Failure (HF) patients often depend on their partners. However providing care may cause burden and affect the health of these partners. The aim of this study was to investigate determinants of caregiver burden in order to identify caregivers who are at risk.
METHODS: Using a cross-sectional design, caregiver burden and potential determinants were measured in partners of HF patients. Demographic and clinical data were assessed in HF patients, partners completed questionnaires on caregiver burden (the Caregiver Reaction Assessment, CRA), caregiving tasks performed, physical and mental health status and quality of the marital relationship.
RESULTS: In total 357 partners (75% female, mean age 67 years) participated. The physical health status of HF patients was only significantly associated with two domains of caregiver burden, 'disruption of daily schedule' (p<0.01) and 'loss of physical strength' (p<0.01). No associations were found with age, co-morbidity and LVEF. All domains of the CRA were mainly associated with the partner's own mental health (p<0.01) and with providing personal care to HF patients (p<0.01). Gender differences were only found with regard to the domain of 'feeling a lack of family support'.
CONCLUSION: The assessment of caregiver burden should focus on the mental strength of partners. Furthermore when assistance in personal care is needed, additional support, either informal or professional, may be indicated.