BACKGROUND: Little account has been taken of quality of life (QoL) among family carers of adults with an intellectual disability (ID) and family carers of adults with a mental illness (MI), particularly the female ageing carers' perceived stigma. We explore whether there are differences in the significant predictors of female ageing family carers' QoL between family carers of adults with ID and family carers of adults with MI and aim to examine the effect of these differences in stigma on carer QoL between the two groups.
METHODS: A structural survey interview was administered to 350 female family carers supporting persons with ID and 66 female carers supporting persons with MI; the carers were aged 55 years and older, and the interviews were carried between July 2006 and April 2007 at the carers' homes in a county in Taiwan. The survey package contained standardised scales to measure the carer's stigma, social support, QoL and health as well as adult and carer socio-demographic data.
RESULTS: The results highlight that in both groups the ageing female family carers' health and social support were strongly associated with the level of their QoL even though there was also a strong effect of carers' perceived stigma on their QoL. Contrary to previous findings, ageing female family carers of adults with MI had a higher level of QoL compared with the carers of adults with ID. Hierarchical regressions show a stronger effect of perceived stigma on the carer QoL among the family carers of adults with MI than among the carers of adults with ID.
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that attempts to improve these female older family carers' health and social support must include their lifelong unmet needs in terms of how to cope with the perceived stigma associated with their position.