Aims and objectives. The aim was to study the association between gender, extent and content of care, satisfaction, coping and difficulties in the caregiving situation among older (75+) caregivers and to identify clusters of caregivers. The aim was also to explore psychometrically two instruments assessing satisfaction and difficulties in family caregivers.
Background. Caregiving is a complicated phenomenon. Much of the research has focused on negative aspects, such as the burden, stress and emotional strain. Caregiving is known to affect health negatively for the caregivers. Little is known about satisfaction and motivation in voluntary work, such as informal caregiving, especially among older persons.
Design and methods. Cross-sectional. The sample for this study consisted of 171 informal caregivers aged 75 and over, identified from an age-stratified sample in a postal survey among older people in the southern part of Sweden.
Results. Male caregivers proved to be more satisfied than female caregivers; caregiving had seemingly widened their horizon and had helped them to grow as persons. Based on satisfaction scores, those satisfied had a higher proportion of male caregivers and a significantly higher amount of caregiving hours per week. They used other coping strategies than the respondents in the other cluster, i.e. less satisfied in using more problem-solving strategies.
Conclusions. The instruments tested were appropriate for work in clinical and research settings, although the internal dropout indicates that a shorter version would be more useful. Those who found satisfaction in care used more problem-focused coping strategies and were more often men than women. From a salutogenic point of view, this may give important knowledge about factors that can promote health. The findings indicate that women deserve extra attention as informal caregivers as they did not find caregiving as rewarding as the men did. This may in turn make them less protected against the negative consequences of caregiving.
Relevance to clinical practice. Reinforcing the health-promoting qualities in caregivers who are not feeling well, with women as a particularly vulnerable group, may restrict unnecessary suffering for both the caregiver and the person cared for.