Purpose. About 30% of the people with multiple sclerosis (MS) require some form of home care assistance and 80% of that assistance is provided by informal or unpaid care givers. This study focusses on the care givers for 530 more disabled people with MS, with the objective of learning more about informal care giving to people with greater dependency and need for assistance.
Method. The data presented in this study were collected in a national survey of 530 people who provided informal care to more disabled people with MS.
Results. Almost half of these care givers reported that they provided more than 20 h of care per week to the person with MS, with more than 9 in 10 shopping for groceries, doing indoor housework, preparing meals or providing transportation for the person with MS. More than 4 in 10 employed care givers reduced the amount of time worked in the previous 12 months because of their care giving responsibilities. Although more than half of the MS care givers in our study reported that care giving was demanding, time consuming or challenging, about 90% of these MS care givers were happy that they could help. About two in three of these MS care givers found that care giving was rewarding, with more than 8 in 10 proud of the care they provided.
Conclusions. More than a quarter of the informal care givers to people with MS thought they would benefit from treatment or counselling provided by mental health professionals. Not only it is necessary to provide access to mental health services for people with MS, but it is also important to assure that their informal care givers also have access to appropriate mental health care, given the scope of their care giving responsibilities.