The literature on coping with illness has for many years viewed only the patients as the focal point of attention and support, and only recently have the needs of patients’ caregivers been acknowledged as well. In addition, studies that have focused on factors contributing to caregiving partners’ burden in the context of chronic illness have assessed mostly intrapersonal variables of either the patient or the partner, thus overlooking the dyadic and interpersonal nature of caregiving. In the current longitudinal study, we examined the contribution of interpersonal factors, such as patients’ and partners’ relationship satisfaction and social support perceptions, to caregiving partners’ burden in the context of cardiac illness. Couples comprising male patients and female caregiving partners (N = 131) completed measures of relationship satisfaction, provided support, and received support upon patients’ admission to a cardiac rehabilitation program after an acute cardiac event (Time 1), and 3 months later (Time 2), upon program completion. Caregiving partners also completed a measure of burden at both measurement times. Path analyses revealed that partners’ relationship satisfaction, provided support, and received support, were all associated with lower levels of different dimensions of burden at both timepoints, as well as over time. Patients’ contribution to their partners’ burden was salient cross-sectionally but not over time. The findings shed light on the substantial role played by interpersonal factors in the caregiving process. Our findings suggest that both patients and partners should be regarded as caregivers and care receivers to each other.
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- Family caregivers
- Relationship satisfaction
- Social support