Caregiver burden and burnout and the role physical activity and exercise play

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Wentzell, Janna Suzanne
Caregivers, the unpaid family, and friends who provide care to their loved ones are integral to Canada’s social fabric and healthcare system. Around the world, the number of caregivers is growing as older adults live longer, have more complex healthcare needs, and the older population is growing faster than the replacement fertility rate. This study examined the health, burden, burnout, physical activity, and exercise levels of caregivers (N = 163) in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada, using a mixed-methods sequential explanatory design with two phases. The quantitative data gathered in the first phase were analyzed and used to inform the qualitative data collection in the second phase. The qualitative data were analyzed by thematic analysis of 12 semi-structured interviews and a narrative inquiry of a selected caregiver. Results from the Caregiver Burden Inventory and the Zarit Burden Interview suggest that approximately 77.5% of the caregivers were experiencing burden, while 23.7% were suffering burnout (as measured with the Maslach Burnout Inventory) from their caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers who were physically active or exercised regularly were less burdened and burned out from their caregiving responsibilities, and their self-perceived health was better. There were no significant differences between rural and urban caregivers in this sample. Sandwich caregivers were similar to their counterparts who were not also caring for their children at home. Caregivers suggested that they require additional support including, but not limited to, increased access to Adult Day Care programs; enhanced Respite Care Services; changes to Home Care that are responsive to the needs of the care recipient, in addition to the caregivers; and additional staffing in long-term care facilities.
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