Background and aims: While a 'Family-Centered' approach to care is accepted as best practice in the context of childhood disability, it may lead to increased demands on family members by requiring them to be active participants in their child's care. This may impact upon the physical and mental health of the caregiver and therefore needs to be investigated. This study aimed to assess the health status of caregivers of children with cerebral palsy (CP) in Ireland and to identify vulnerable subgroups.
Methods: A cross-sectional postal survey was conducted using a questionnaire incorporating the SF-36v2.0. The sample consisted of male and female caregivers of children with CP, representing all levels of ability. Two questionnaires were sent to each child's home; a total of 312 questionnaires were sent to the homes of 156 children.
Results: Completed questionnaires were returned by 161 caregivers (100 women, 61 men) of 101 children, giving a response rate of 65%. Caregivers of children with CP were found to have poorer health than the Irish general population, for whom normative data exist. Female caregivers had poorer health than male caregivers in both the physical (P < 0.05) and mental health (P < 0.001) domains of the SF-36. Caregivers spending more time caring had significantly poorer mental health than those spending less time caring (P < 0.05). There was no difference in the health of caregivers of 'more independent' versus 'more dependent' children, apart from the latter group reporting higher levels of bodily pain (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: This study provides evidence of the inferior health status of caregivers of children with CP in Ireland, particularly that of women.