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Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2011 Spring;34(4):295-303. doi: 10.2975/34.4.2011.295.303.

Family contact and health status among older adults with serious mental illnesses.

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1
Dartmouth Center for Aging Research, Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The purpose of this study was to explore the amount of family contact among older persons with serious mental illnesses (SMI), and to examine its relationship to health and mental health.

METHODS:

An analysis of baseline data was conducted from a treatment study including 180 adults age 50 and older. The amount of family contact was examined with descriptive statistics. Differences in health and mental health were examined between participants with low, moderate, or high levels of family contact. Analyses also compared these groups on health and mental health functioning, controlling for psychiatric symptoms and the number and severity of medical diseases, respectively.

RESULTS:

Over three-quarters of respondents (77.8%) reported speaking on the phone with a relative and two-thirds (67.2%) reported seeing a relative at least once during the past month. Older adults who lived with a family member had more severe mood symptoms and poorer mental health functioning. Those who lived with family or had moderate levels of family contact had more comorbid diseases and more disease severity than those with less family contact. These relationships remained significant after controlling for medical conditions or psychiatric symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:

The majority of older persons have regular family contact and those with the highest levels of family contact appear to have more compromised physical and mental health. Study findings provide new knowledge for practitioners regarding the importance of using family interventions to target physical health and mental illness management for older consumers who may need assistance to access medical care and treatment. Further research on the role of families in psychiatric and physical health management will provide a foundation for family interventions aimed at supporting community living among older adults.

PMID:
21459745
PMCID:
PMC5662185
DOI:
10.2975/34.4.2011.295.303
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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