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The impact of chronic diseases: the partner's perspective.

Baanders, A.N., Heijmans, M. The impact of chronic diseases: the partner's perspective. Family and Community Health: 2007, 30(4), 305-317
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A chronic physical disease not only has direct consequences for the chronically ill person but can also distort the life of the healthy partner. This study of a representative sample of chronically ill persons and their partners in the Netherlands presents quantitative information on the proportion of partners who experience consequences in 4 distinguished areas (personal life strain, social relations, financial burden, and intrinsic rewards) and provides insight into the factors related to this. Data were derived from a subsample (N=1,093) of participants in the Dutch Panel of Patients With Chronic Diseases. Linear regression analysis was used to determine the relative effect of caregiving and of disease characteristics to explain the variance in the 4 impact factors. The most prevailing consequences, experienced by more than half of the partners, were related to personal life strain and intrinsic rewards. An impact on social relations and financial situation was reported by 20% of the partners. The regression analyses showed that the time spent on caregiving is the main predictor for all 4 impact measures in this study. However, the findings also make clear that the impact on the partner’s life does not arise entirely from the amount of caregiving. An independent effect of specific disease characteristics is observed in addition to the effect of caregiving; that is, we found that physical impairments in the patient are related to higher personal life strain and higher financial burden whereas social impairments are related to higher impact on all 4 factors. When the patient’s disease is accompanied with fatigue, the partner reports higher impact on personal life, on social relations, and on intrinsic rewards, and pain significantly affects the partner’s social relations. Partners of patients with cancer, musculoskeletal, or digestive disorders are more vulnerable for the consequences of the chronic disease. The impact on female partners is higher for all 4 impact factors. The findings make clear that living with a chronically ill person has an impact on the partner’s life that goes beyond the consequences of caregiving.(aut. ref.)