Background: Future patients with chronic diseases will probably remain longer in their homes. To enable family caregivers to meet these challenges, public services and informal support are essential.
Objectives: This study compared social support between home-dwelling caregivers of partners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or dementia.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 206 caregivers. Professional aid was quantified by the services utilised. Informal support from family and friends was rated by the number of helping persons and the degree of social withdrawal. The Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey Form captured perceived social support.
Results: For both diseases, increased severity correlated with more utilisation of professional aid. The chronic obstructive pulmonary disease group perceived more social support, reported less social withdrawal and higher numbers of helping persons. Ill partners' aggressive behaviour reduced perceived support. The use of professional aid was negatively associated with the ill partner's level of self-care, and positively correlated with social withdrawal. Professional aid was more utilised by the dementia group and by men.
Conclusions: Differences in caregivers' needs for social support were related to their partner's disease.
Implications for practice: Counteracting social withdrawal, considering type of illness and gender differences may increase the quality of informal care.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.