Study: Caregivers of Veterans Often Stressed But Satisfied

Bonnie Wakefield

Bonnie Wakefield

If you’re a caregiver for a veteran with a chronic illness, chances are you may be a bit stressed. According to new research from the University of Missouri, you’re probably also feeling satisfied with your responsibilities.

Researcher Bonnie Wakefield, an associate research professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri, found that family members, usually wives, assume most of the caregiving responsibilities for veterans. Of the caregivers Wakefield surveyed, nearly half said they had no choice in caring for their relatives.

“Veterans with chronic illnesses have many care needs that often go unnoticed,” said Wakefield. “Caregivers help with those needs, such as cooking meals, managing medications and giving moral support.”

In the study, 8 percent of caregivers reported high levels of depression, and nearly one-third reported high levels of strain. Depression and strain were attributed to a lack of coping strategies and caring for veterans with lower self-reported health.

Yet caregivers also reported feeling more satisfied, especially when they had outside help, such as support from friends and relatives, and when they had a way to cope, such as regular exercise.

Wakefield suggested that caregivers seek assistance through Web sites such as My HealtheVet and VA Caregiver Support and visit clinicians who can monitor stress levels and offer concrete suggestions on how to alleviate stress.

The study, “Strain and Satisfaction in Caregivers of Veterans with Chronic Illness,” was published in Research in Nursing & Health and was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI).