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Polenick CA, Sherman CW, Birditt KS, Zarit SH, Kales HC. Purpose in Life Among Family Care Partners Managing Dementia: Links to Caregiving Gains. The Gerontologist. 2019 Sep 17; 59(5):e424-e432.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Purpose in life is associated with better health and has been found to minimize caregiving stress. Greater purpose may also promote caregiving gains (i.e., rewards or uplifts from providing care), yet the implications of purpose for positive aspects of the care role are largely unknown. The present study determined how perceptions of purpose in life among persons with dementia (PWDs) and their family caregivers are linked to caregiving gains. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: This cross-sectional study examined 153 co-resident family caregivers drawn from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study and National Study of Caregiving. Linear regressions were estimated to evaluate associations between caregivers' and PWDs' reports of their own purpose in life and caregivers' perceived caregiving gains, along with whether these associations vary by caregiver gender. Models controlled for caregivers' sociodemographic characteristics, relationship to the PWD, care tasks, role overload, negative caregiving relationship quality, and both care partners' chronic health conditions. RESULTS: Caregivers' higher purpose in life was significantly linked to greater caregiving gains. Beyond this association, PWDs' higher purpose in life was significantly associated with greater caregiving gains for women but not for men. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Purpose in life is a psychological resource that contributes to positive caregiving outcomes. Interventions to improve caregiver well-being could benefit from strategies that strengthen and maintain feelings of purpose among caregivers and PWDs.

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