Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Aging Studies

Major Professor

William E. Haley.

Keywords

Caregiving, Bereavement, Social support, Depression, Stressors, Well-being

Abstract

Spousal bereavement has been consistently demonstrated in the literature to be one of the most highly stressful experiences in an individuals lifetime. In addition many deaths in the United States are preceded by a period of caregiving, which is also believed to be highly stressful and have a profound impact on bereavement. However the literature has been inconsistent as to the exact nature of the relationship between caregiving and bereavement and there has been some debate as to whether or not positive and negative affect variables are mutually exclusive. This dissertation sought to further address the issue of the relationship between caregiving and the bereavement experience through a series of three studies which utilized information from two datasets. The first was the Changing Lives of Older Couples (CLOC) study, a project that included both pre- and post-loss data.

The second was a subset of a dataset that recruited elderly spousal caregivers of terminally ill patients from a large, local non-profit hospice. This dataset included both pre- and post-loss data and included a variety of widely used and validated measures that allowed for the examination of caregiving stressors, appraisals, and social support and their effect on both positive and negative mental health outcomes during bereavement.The first study examined the impact of caregiving on well-being during bereavement, specifically within the domains of psychological, social, and physical health, utilizing both positive and negative affect measures.

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