The primary purpose of this study is to provide a detailed description of the differences between dementia and nondementia caregivers with regard to several areas that are germane to caregivers’ wellbeing. Differences between dementia and nondementia caregivers are examined in terms of who is providing care, impacts of caregiving on the caregiver (caregiver strain, role strain, family conflict), involvement in caregiving (hours spent caregiving, tasks performed), effects of caregiving on employment, and service utilization. In addition to developing a detailed description of dementia and nondementia caregivers, multivariate analyses are performed that control for factors known to influence caregivers’ mental health, (e.g., gender, income and level of caregiving involvement) in order to determine whether there are differences in caregiver strain by dementia status over and above those due to other factors.
Unlike prior research, differences between dementia and nondementia caregivers are investigated using nationally representative data from the 1996 National Caregiver Survey (National Alliance for Caregiving and American Association for Retired Persons [NAC/AARP], 1997). The guiding question throughout this article is how caring for someone with dementia or related problems affects the caregiving experience. In addition to this sample, a supplemental sample was generated from ICR’s EXCEL Omnibus Service. This sample included respondents who previously had identified themselves as Black, Hispanic, or “other race” and was used to oversample by race for Black, Hispanic, and Asian caregivers. Because funds were not available to conduct interviews with non-English-speaking participants, the telephone survey was administered only to individuals previously identified by ICR as English-speaking.
In sum, this study, employing national data from a survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association for Retired Persons, has provided an important comparative snapshot of caregivers for elders with and without dementia. Specifically, results of this study showed that dementia caregivers are more affected by caregiving and utilize more formal services. However, future research conducted on longitudinal data of a comparable nature would be invaluable in helping us further understand the nuances and differences of caregiving for these distinct populations of care recipients.