Resilience in the Initial Year of Caregiving for a Family Member With a Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury
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OBJECTIVE: Individuals who assume caregiving duties for a family member disabled in a traumatic injury often exhibit considerable distress, yet few studies have examined characteristics of those who may be resilient in the initial year of caregiving. Reasoning from the influential Pearlin model of caregiving (Pearlin & Aneshensel, 1994) and the resilience process model (Bonanno, 2005), we expected a significant minority of caregivers would be chronically distressed and another group would be resilient throughout the inaugural year of caregiving for a person with a traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), and these groups would differ significantly in primary and secondary stress and in personal resources and mediators. METHOD: Twenty men and 108 women who identified as caregivers for a family member who incurred a traumatic SCI consented to complete measures during the inpatient rehabilitation and at 1 month, 6 months, and 12 months postdischarge. RESULTS: Latent growth mixture modeling of depression symptoms over time revealed 3 groups of caregivers: chronic (24%), recovery (24%) and resilient (48%). The chronic group reported more anxiety, negative affect, and ill health than the other 2 groups throughout the year. The resilient group was best characterized by their enduring levels of positive affect and supportive social networks. CONCLUSIONS: A large percentage of individuals are resilient in the initial year of caregiving, and those who have problems adapting exhibit significant distress soon following the traumatic event. Early detection of and psychological interventions for individuals who have difficulty adjusting are indicated, as their distress is unlikely to abate untreated over the year.
author list (cited authors)
Elliott, T. R., Berry, J. W., Richards, J. S., & Shewchuk, R. M.