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J Abnorm Psychol. 2001 Nov;110(4):573-84.

Long-term caregiving: what happens when it ends?

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Center of Excellence on Healthy Aging with Disabilities, Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Texas 77030, USA.


Data from a longitudinal study were used to examine what happens to caregivers in the years after their cognitively impaired spouse dies. Comparisons of 42 current caregivers, 49 former caregivers, and 52 noncaregivers over a 4-year period showed that former caregivers did not improve on several measures of psychological well-being. Although former caregivers experienced decreases in stress and negative affect, their scores on depression, loneliness, and positive affect did not rebound to levels comparable to noncaregivers and, in fact, remained similar to those of current caregivers up to 3 years after caregiving had ceased. The most consistent predictors of postcaregiving outcomes were social support and intrusive-avoidant thinking about caregiving. The data suggest that some consequences of long-term caregiving may be long-term as well. The needs of former spousal caregivers warrant greater attention both in research and in practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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