Family caregiving for persons with AIDS

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Demling, Jennifer R.
Kite, Mary E.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Psychological Science
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This study examines the experience of individuals who participated or did not participate in the caregiving process for a family member who died within approximately the past three years of an AIDS-related illness. The focus of this study is on the adjustment of the caregivers and non-caregivers after the death of the PWA. It was hypothesized that due to their direct involvement in the caregiving process, caregivers would differ significantly from non-caregivers on a number of measures designed to evaluate adjustment. It was hypothesized that caregivers would report better overall adjustment than non-caregivers.Participants completed the Symptom Checklist 90 (SCL-90; Derogatis, Lipman, & Covi, 1973), as well as a semi-structured interview about their experiences. A two-tailed t-test revealed no significant differences between groups. However, effect sizes computed for these variables revealed moderate to large diff ererences between caregivers and non-caregivers on the somatization and interpersonal subscales of the SCL-90. Comparisons to a standardization sample showed that caregivers differed significantly on all subscales from that standardization sample: Non-caregivers differed only on the depression and interpersonal sensitivity subscales. Analysis of the interview data revealed a significant difference in reported stress, with caregivers reporting significantly more stress during the illness of the PWA than non-caregivers. Effect sizes were computed for nine other interview categories; these suggested that caregiversreported substantially less social withdrawal, fewer feelings of guilt, fewer problems resolving issues with the PWA, substantially more physical illness, and more life affirming statements than their non-caregiver counterparts. Several other noteworthy trends that emerged in the interview portion of the study are discussed.Small sample size and pre-existing characteristics of the participants are explored as possible factors affecting the outcome of the study. More controlled studies exploring the adjustment of caregivers and non-caregivers are needed in order to better understand the possible differences that may exist between caregivers and non-caregivers in terms of adjustment after the death of their loved one from an AIDS-related illness.