11 Sep Caregivers Own Cardiovascular Health Can Be Overlooked
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Heather Tulloch, C. Psych
Clinical, Health, and Rehabilitation Psychologist
Division of Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation
Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine
University of Ottawa Heart Institute
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: It is well established that many caregivers experience distress when caring for a loved one with cardiovascular disease. For example, over 40% of caregivers in Ontario, Canada, report high psychological, emotional, physical, social, and emotional stresses imposed by the caregiving role. Ironically, caregivers are vulnerable to developing their own poor cardiovascular health. For example, chronic stress brought on by a caregiving role increases caregivers’ cardiovascular reactivity (i.e., blood pressure, heart rate) and impaired endothelial function. Many caregivers also report poor preventative health behaviours and low quality of life scores.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In this non-systematic review, we argue that while there is an appreciation for the health risks of caregiving in the literature and in clinical practice, there are still few approaches that have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing a caregiver’s distress. There is emerging evidence that high quality caregiver-patient relationships can reduce caregiver burden, distress, and depressive symptoms, allowing caregivers to better care for themselves and their spouse. Drawing from this evidence, we contend that patient and caregiver cardiovascular health may be improved by enhancing patient-caregiver relationship quality (e.g., improving communication, emotional accessibility and responsiveness, etc.). Couples-based interventions delivered in a cardiac rehabilitation setting may be a timely and appropriate approach to reduce caregiver distress and enhance caregivers’ comprehensive health outcomes.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Caregivers are critical for patients’ cardiovascular disease management and are an invaluable healthcare resource. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence to suggest that caregivers are vulnerable to developing their own poor cardiovascular health. Involving caregivers in a patient’s secondary prevention programming, such as cardiac rehabilitation, may be a promising avenue to improve both patient and partner clinical outcomes. Current research and our clinical experience indicate that interventions targeting patient-caregiver relationship quality may be effective in reducing caregiver distress while improving caregiver and patient health.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: While the links between caregiver stress, relationship quality, and physiological and health-behavior factors are still emerging, more research is definitely required. Most importantly, there is a unique opportunity to further study and translate these preliminary findings into secondary prevention programming (e.g., cardiac rehabilitation) and to evaluate the effects of such interventions on caregivers’ and patients’ comprehensive health outcomes.
Karen Bouchard, Paul S. Greenman, Andrew Pipe, Susan M. Johnson, Heather Tulloch. Reducing Caregiver Distress and Cardiovascular Risk: A Focus on Caregiver-Patient Relationship Quality. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.cjca.2019.05.007
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