Emotional and physical demands on caregivers in home care to the elderly in Switzerland and their relationship to nursing home admission

Annemarie Kesselring*, Tamar Krulik, Manuel Bichsel, Christoph Minder, John C. Beck, Andreas E. Stuck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Planning the home care of growing numbers of old, dependent people must include the caregivers' burden. Methods: A convenience sample of 129 caregivers of elderly patients with multiple diagnoses was interviewed about the caregiving context, burden, caregivers' tolerance of patients' troublesome behaviours and physical symptoms, mutuality and feelings of closeness between caregiver and patient. Continued maintenance of home care was assessed by a follow-up telephone call. Results: Caregivers were mainly spouses (67%) and female (73%), and the mean duration of care was 5.5 years. In five activities of daily living (ADL) 50-69% of the patients needed full help. Caregivers reported predominantly negative effects of caregiving on their physical and mental health, rest and sleep, leisure time and social life, problems with patients' symptoms and behaviours and little or no conversing (51%) or exchanging feelings with patients (71%). Predictive models: Contributors to variance were for burden (35%), impact of care on caregivers' mental health, social relations and leisure time, patients' gender, accumulation of patients' symptoms and behaviours; for caregivers' tolerance toward patients' symptoms and behaviours (17%) caregivers' physical health, patients' level of confusion, feelings of mutuality; for mutuality (22%) and for closeness (19%) caregivers' mental health, patients' accumulation of symptoms and behaviours. Within 23 months 19% of the patients had been institutionalized. Factors giving a higher likelihood of institutionalization were: Being male, caregiver was not a partner, and less closeness between caregiver and patient. Conclusion: Caregiving of older persons has bio-psychosocial ramifications for caregivers. Closeness between caregiver and patient seems to be a key factor in determination of the long-term outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-273
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


FundersFunder number
Swiss Nurses' Association
Velux Stiftung
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung32-52804-97


    • Caregiver burden
    • Caregiver tolerance of patients' symptoms and disturbed behaviours
    • Caregiving
    • Home care of elderly in Switzerland
    • Institutionalization


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