Caring for relatives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: how does the disease severity impact on family carers?

Aging Ment Health. 2014;18(3):385-93. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2013.837146. Epub 2013 Sep 20.


Objectives: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a major cause of disability, morbidity and mortality in old age, representing a significant burden for families. However, information on the impacts of caring for relatives with COPD on carers' psychological health is limited. This study aimed to analyse the subjective burden of family carers of people with early and advanced COPD and its predictor variables.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted. A structured questionnaire was used to collect socio-demographics and care-giving characteristics. Self-rated physical and mental health were measured by two items from the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health checklist. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was used to assess anxiety and depression. Subjective burden was assessed with the Carers' Assessment of Difficulties Index (CADI). Descriptive and inferential analyses were performed.

Results: A total of 167 family carers participated: 113 were caring for people with early and 54 with advanced COPD. Both groups presented anxiety/depression symptoms. Those caring for people with advanced COPD reported higher subjective burden, more depression symptoms and poorer self-rated mental health than those caring for early COPD. Advanced COPD (coefficient 6.7), depression (coefficient 6.3), anxiety (coefficient 5.6), care-giving hours per week (coefficient 3.2) and self-rated mental health (coefficient 2.8) were significant predictors of carers' subjective burden.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that the gradual course of COPD imposes an increasing physical and emotional burden on carers, with negative impacts on their psychological health. The study highlights the relevance of early interventions in the context of COPD to prevent carers' burden.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portugal
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive*
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult