Does age make a difference in caregiver strain? Comparison of young versus older caregivers in early-stage Parkinson's disease

Julie H. Carter, Karen S. Lyons, Barbara J. Stewart, Patricia G. Archbold, Rebecca Scobee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Family care research has identified negative outcomes of providing care to a spouse with Parkinson's disease (PD), such as declining physical and mental health. Research has also identified protective variables that decrease negative outcomes such as high mutuality and rewards of meaning. It is important for clinicians to identify "at risk" family caregivers and provide earlier interventions. Despite the importance of age and developmental stage there is a paucity of research comparing young versus older spouse caregivers. This study compared the difference in negative aspects of strain and modulators of strain in young and older PD spouse caregivers. A series of hierarchical multiple regressions were used to examine the contribution of age on both positive and negative aspects of the care situation for 65 (37 young, 28 old) PD spouse caregivers. Negative variables included 3 dimensions of strain; strain from lack of personal resources, strain from worry, and global strain. Positive or protective variables included mutuality, preparedness, and rewards of meaning. Even in early stage disease before significant care is required, young spouses (40-55) were found to be at greater risk for negative consequences of the care situation reporting significantly more strain from lack of personal resources, and lower levels of mutuality and rewards of meaning than older (greater than 70) spouses. As expected, young spouses were more likely to be working, caring for children in the home, and in better physical health than older spouses. Clinicians are well-situated to identify the unique needs of young spouses and intervene early in the caregiving trajectory. These findings provide ideas for targeted interventions. Future larger studies that compare young and older spouses should include later stage disease to more fully understand the developmental differences raised by the present findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-730
Number of pages7
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 30 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Caregiving
  • Mutuality
  • Spouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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