BACKGROUND: Older people with multi-morbidity are major users of healthcare and are often discharged from hospital with ongoing care needs. This care is frequently provided by informal caregivers and the time immediately after discharge is challenging for caregivers with new and/or additional tasks, resulting in anxiety and stress.
AIM: This study aimed to describe mental health, with particular reference to anxiety and depression and reactions to caregiving, and to investigate any associations between the two, in next of kin of older people with multi-morbidity after hospitalisation. It also aimed to explore the association between the demographic characteristics of the study group and mental health and reactions to caregiving.
METHODS: This was a cross-sectional questionnaire study using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Caregiver Reaction Assessment. The study group consisted of 345 next of kin of older people (65+) with multi-morbidity discharged home from 13 medical wards in Sweden. Data were analysed using descriptive and analytical statistics. To identify whether reactions to caregiving and next of kin characteristics were associated with anxiety and depression, a univariate logistic regression analysis was performed.
RESULTS: More than one quarter of respondents showed severe anxiety and nearly one in 10 had severe depressive symptoms. The frequencies of anxiety and depression increased significantly with increased negative reactions to caregiving and decreased significantly with positive reactions to caregiving. Regarding caregiving reactions, the scores were highest for the positive domain Caregiver esteem, followed by the negative domain Impact on health. Women scored significantly higher than men on Impact on health and spouses scored highest for Impact on schedule and Caregiver esteem.
CONCLUSIONS: Nurses and other healthcare professionals may need to provide additional support to informal caregivers before and after discharging older people with significant care needs from hospital. This might include person-centred information, education and training.
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