Determinants of overburdening among informal carers: a systematic review

Lindt, Nienke; Berkel, Jantien van; Mulder, Bob C.


BACKGROUND: The world's population is ageing, resulting in rising care demands and healthcare costs, which in turn lead to a shift from formal to informal care. However, not only is the number of potential informal carers fast decreasing, but also informal caregivers are experiencing a higher caregiver burden. This literature review aims to synthesize the literature on the common determinants of caregiver burden in Western countries, to help ensure future continuation of informal care in the home context, and to improve or sustain the quality of life of caregivers and patients alike. METHOD: A systematic review of peer-reviewed articles included in PubMed, Scopus, and/or PsychInfo was conducted. RESULTS: Seventeen articles were included. The most important predictors were the duration of caregiving and the patient's dependency level, in terms of both physical and mental dependency stemming from decreased cognitive capacity or behavioural problems. Some specific illnesses and role conflicts or captivity also increased caregiver burden, whereas social support lowered it. Being a female caregiver or having an adult-child relationship led to a higher burden. CONCLUSIONS: The most important predictors of caregiver burden are the duration of caregiving and the patient's dependency level. In addition, the patient's behavioural problems and cognitive capacity determine dependency level, and thus care burden. Interventions to relieve burden need to be adapted to the illness trajectory of specific diseases and corresponding needs for social support for both the recipient and the caregiver. Changing role expectations, leading to men being more involved, could reduce the disproportionately high burden for women.