Goal adjustment processes and caregiver health: Can giving up be a good thing?

Mounting evidence indicates that caring for a family member with a chronic illness not only reduces the quality of life for the caregiver, it also increases the caregiver’s risk of becoming ill. Little is known about the specific mechanisms by which caregiving impacts health and well-being. One important factor may be the caregiver’s ability to adjust personal family and career goals to meet the demands of the difficult situation. If a caregiver is able to let go of goals set before the diagnosis, such as getting a promotion at work or building a vacation home, he or she may have an easier time adjusting to this new role, and in turn, experience reduced distress and better physical health. Teresa Marin is examining the impact of tendencies to adjust goals on both psychological and physical well-being. Once she has determined the relationship between goal adjustment and health in the context of caregiving stress, it will be possible to apply this knowledge to clinical interventions designed to foster better coping skills among caregivers. This research follows Marin’s MSFHR-funded Master’s work, in which she analyzed the mental and physical health of spouses caring for cancer patients to determine the daily impact of expressing or suppressing their emotions.