Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Date of Defense

7-30-2018

Graduate Advisor

Ann Steffen, Ph.D. ABPP

Committee

Ann Steffen, Ph.D., ABPP

Emily Gerstein, Ph.D.

Kuei-Hsiang Hsueh, Ph.D.

Thomas Meuser, Ph.D.

Abstract

Abstract This study integrated research on family care partners of older adults and

research on uncertainty in chronic illness. Previous findings were extended by examining care partners of older adults with multiple chronic conditions and highlighting early-stage undiagnosed cognitive impairment as a uniquely unclear condition. Participants were 45 women assisting community-dwelling, earlier generation older adults with multiple chronic health conditions and a prognosis of more than six months. Online survey data were used to test the hypotheses that increased illness uncertainty would be associated with increased care partner-recipient relationship strain and increased care partner perceived stress. This study also hypothesized that the strength of these associations would be reduced after controlling for the interaction of care recipient cognitive impairment and presence or absence of a diagnosed neurocognitive disorder. A significant association was not found between illness uncertainty and dyadic strain; however, when the interaction between impairment and diagnostic status was controlled for, uncertainty emerged as a significant predictor of dyadic strain. A significant association was found between illness uncertainty and perceived stress; when the interaction between impairment and diagnostic status was controlled for, uncertainty remained a significant predictor of perceived stress. Taken together, results suggest that illness uncertainty is a relevant factor in understanding caregiving experiences of women caring for chronically ill older adults.

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