Gender differences among Canadian spousal caregivers at the end of life
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The purpose of this study was to examine gender differences in spousal caregiving at the end of life. The primary research question was to determine gender differences in caregiver strain among spousal caregivers. Secondary research questions investigated included (i) the presence of gender differences among spousal caregivers in the duration of care provided; (ii) gender differences among spousal caregivers in formal service use and unmet service needs; and (iii) whether support to care recipients in activities of daily living varied according to the gender of the spousal caregiver. The study was conducted over a 2-year period (2000-2002) in south-central Ontario, Canada. The study sample included 283 informal spousal caregivers (198 females, 85 males) each of whom were caring for a terminally ill spouse at the time they participated in a cross-sectional telephone survey. The analysis showed that females reported a significantly greater level of caregiving strain than males (t = -2.12, d.f. = 281, P = 0.035). When considering source of support in activities of daily living for the care recipient, differential assistance was noted on the basis of caregiver gender. Female caregivers had almost twice the odds of providing support in toileting-related tasks than male caregivers (odds ratio (OR) = 1.98, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.01-3.85, P = 0.044), while male caregivers had approximately twice the odds of providing support in mobility-related tasks (OR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.21-0.81, P = 0.011). Care recipients who had a female caregiver had lower odds of receiving support from family and friends in tasks associated with personal care (OR = 0.17, 95% CI = 0.05-0.53, P = 0.002). To address gender differences in caregiving, a realistic home-based palliative care approach must take into account the importance of informal caregivers.