Purpose. To describe and compare spousal and non-spousal caregivers of older adults with multiple sclerosis (MS), the nature and extent of assistance they provide, and the challenges they experience in the course of their caregiving role.
Methods. This cross-sectional descriptive study uses data from telephone interviews with 302 caregivers of older adults with MS. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square and Wilcoxon tests were used to generate and compare caregiver profiles. A proportional odds model examined factors associated the provision of greater extent of care.
Results. Spousal and non-spousal caregivers differed in age, sex, location of residence, and employment status. The characteristics of the people with MS for whom they cared were very similar. Spousal caregivers assisted with more activities, although non-spousal caregivers provided equivalent caregiving time. Twenty percent of caregivers spent more than 3.5 h per day caregiving. Caregiving time was influenced by cognitive and ADL status of the person with MS, and the number of caregiving activities performed. Challenges reported by caregivers were similar.
Conclusions. Both spousal and non-spousal caregivers of older adults with MS provide substantial assistance, and experience many challenges. Rehabilitation professionals need to be aware of the diversity of caregivers and the assistance they provide to facilitate appropriate support and resources.