Doctor of Philosophy
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a common progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to both physical and cognitive impairment over time. Eventually, these impairments may include the loss of autonomy, and the individual may require the assistance of an informal caregiver. Informal caregivers are critical in the care of individuals with PD and spend substantial time providing care, which may be associated with negative caregiver outcomes such as burden, mental health issues, as well as poor family dynamics. Although research in the United States and Europe has generally supported these relations, there is very limited research on PD caregiving in Latin America. Given the rapidly aging population of Latin America, research suggests that the prevalence of PD is likely to increase substantially. Although cultural values such as familism may encourage informal caregiving in Latin America, very little is known about either PD patient or caregiver experiences in the region and how they may differ from those in the United States and Europe.
As such, the current study built upon Pearlin’s caregiving stress process model to examine how PD-related impairments, caregiver burden and mental health, and family dynamics may differ between the United States and Mexico and to examine connections among the following variables in a sample of PD caregivers from the United States and Mexico: (a) PD-related impairments (motor and non-motor symptoms) and caregiver burden, (b) caregiver burden and caregiver mental health, (c) PD-related impairments and mental health through caregiver burden, and (d) family dynamics which may moderate these relations.
The current study consisted of caregivers of individuals with PD (total N = 253) from the United States (N = 105) and Mexico (N = 148). A series of t-tests and mediational models were conducted to determine the connections among PD-related impairments, caregiver burden and mental health, and family dynamics. Results suggested that caregivers from the United States site experienced higher levels of caregiver burden, although there were no significant differences in caregiver mental health. Further, caregiver burden fully mediated the relation between PD-related impairments and caregiver mental health at both study sites, although family dynamics did not moderate these mediational models as hypothesized. Despite the importance of cultural values such as familism in Latin America, family dynamics explained more variance in the model at the United States site than at the Mexico site. Exploratory analyses found that caregivers from the Mexico site more frequently reported suicidal and self-injurious thoughts but did not find a significant disparity in self-reported gender of the caregiver.
Overall, the current study identified significant relations among PD-related impairments, caregiver burden and mental health, and family dynamics among caregivers of individuals with PD from the United States and Mexico. Findings from the current study highlight a number of important interventions for caregivers and families, including caregiver burden and mental health, as well as family dynamics.
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