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Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2007 Jan;48(1):64-71.

Caregiving time in sickle cell disease: psychological effects in maternal caregivers.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, San Francisco, California, USA.



Providing home care for a child with a chronic illness can be stressful for the family. The purpose of this paper is to examine patterns of caregiving and the associated psychological impact on maternal caregivers of children with sickle cell disease (SCD).


Fourteen maternal caregivers of children with SCD were interviewed as part of a larger study of maternal caregivers of children with chronic illness. Forty-four caregivers of children with HIV and 36 caregivers of healthy children were included as comparison groups. Interviews included questions regarding amount of time spent providing care for the child (technical care, non-technical care, health care management), hospitalization, emergency room visits, illness stigma, and mental health of the caregiver.


Children with SCD had significantly lower functional status and significantly more hospitalizations in the previous 3 months than children with HIV. Caregivers of children with SCD were more likely to work full-time and had higher incomes than caregivers of children with HIV. The three caregiving groups did not differ significantly on amount of total care, although caregivers of children with SCD and caregivers of children with HIV both reported significantly more time spent in technical care than caregivers of healthy children. Despite lower functional status of the children in the SCD group, when group comparisons on caregiving time variables were adjusted for child's functional status, the differences between groups increased. This appeared to be due to the fact that caregivers in the HIV group spent more time in all caregiving categories except skin, crisis, and other care. In terms of caregiver mental health, caregivers of children with HIV and SCD had significantly higher depressive mood scores than caregivers of healthy children but the groups did not differ on caregiving burden.


The perceived care burden of caregivers of children with SCD may be related to the unpredictable nature of the crisis care they provide. Additional attention is warranted to developing adequate resources for caregivers of children with SCD to mitigate the stress of unexpected crises.

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