Caregiving Experiences and Health Conditions of Women Veteran and Non-Veteran Caregivers



      Unique experiences, for example, trauma, of women veteran caregivers may create differences in the caregiving experience and may be associated with health concerns. We examined caregiving factors and health concerns in women veteran caregivers compared to non-veteran women (civilian) caregivers, and identified variables associated with being a woman veteran caregiver.


      We conducted secondary data analyses using data from a multistate survey to examine sociodemographics, the caregiver experience (relationship to recipient, duration as caregiver, hours of care provided, area help is needed, and greatest difficulty faced as a caregiver); emotional support; life satisfaction; lifestyle behaviors; general, physical, and mental health; and chronic conditions in women informal caregivers.


      Of women caregivers, more veteran caregivers provided activities of daily living (ADL) help (33%) than non-veteran caregivers (21%; p = .02). There were no differences in years as a caregiver, hours of care provided, or the relationship to the recipient. Poor sleep and poor mental health were experienced by more women veteran caregivers (vs. non-veteran), but physical health, general health, and chronic condition prevalence did not differ. Women veteran caregivers had twofold greater odds of being Black, never married, college educated, and providing ADL assistance. Odds of obesity were lower for women veteran caregivers relative to other women caregivers.


      Women veteran caregivers experience health concerns, including sleeplessness, poor mental health, and some chronic conditions. Our cohort were young women, yet had concerns that may be exacerbated by being a veteran and assuming a caregiver role. Comprehensive services to support their needs as veteran patients and as caregivers are needed.
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      Sherri L. LaVela, PhD, MPH, MBA, is a Research Health Scientist at the Hines VA Hospital and Research Assistant Professor in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago. Her research interests include access to and equitable delivery of patient-centered care and patient-reported outcomes in vulnerable populations.


      Bella Etingen, MA, is a Health Science Specialist at the Hines VA Hospital, with an interest in health outcomes for individuals who have experienced trauma.


      Theresa Louise-Bender Pape, DrPH, MA, CCC-SLP/L, is a Research Health Scientist at the Hines VA Hospital and is a site lead for the VA Women’s Health Research Network; she holds an academic appointment in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago. Her research interests include traumatic brain injury, chronic conditions, and women’s health.