Aim: Our paper presents an instrument for recognising the psychological problems of caregivers: the short form of a previously validated questionnaire, the Family Strain Questionnaire.
Background: Individuals caring for chronic patients frequently suffer from psychological problems, which are underestimated by medical professionals and, consequently, are not adequately treated. Therefore, clinical nurses, general practitioners and the members of home care teams have to recognise the psychological problems of caregivers. To do so, they need to quickly measure the problem's severity quickly and track it over time, without a specific training in psychological diagnosis.
Method: Principal caregivers (n = 811) completed the Family Strain Questionnaire in its original form (semi-structured interview plus 44 dichotomous items, administrable in about 20 minutes), aimed at investigating the subjective perception of emotional burden, problems in social involvement, the need for more information about the disease, satisfaction with family relationships and thoughts about death. Data were analysed using the Rasch model for the reduction of items. Thirty items were selected and reanalysed in a new sample of 40 caregivers.
Results: The thirty items selected showed very good fit statistics and maintained the diagnostic qualities of the original form. They thus compose the Family Strain Questionnaire - Short Form that caregivers can complete in about five minutes. This brief measure can indicate the severity of stress and allows categorisation of caregivers by psychological risk, which is also represented by a graphic tool.
Conclusion: This study confirms that the Family Strain Questionnaire - Short Form offers an initial measure of caregivers' psychological status, regardless of the patient's disease and allows professionals to monitor it over time with a rapid and effective instrument.
Relevance to clinical practice: Clinical nurses, general practitioners and homecare teams should find the Family Strain Questionnaire - Short Form useful for assessing caregiving strain. The instrument is quick and easy to use and does not require any sophisticated psychological training.