Background: Although pessimism and optimism are associated with health-related outcomes, the long-term effects of pessimism and optimism in the caregiving process are understudied, and little is known about their role in health changes over time. Objective: To determine whether pessimism and optimism can be used as early warning signs for negative changes in caregiver depressive symptoms and physical health over a 10-year period. Methods: Multilevel modeling was used to examine longitudinal data from 311 spouse caregivers of individuals with Parkinson's disease, with data points at baseline, Year 2, and Year 10. Measures included the Life Orientation Test, the Center for Epidemiological Studies - Depression Scale, and the SF-36 Health Survey physical functioning scale. Results: Caregiver pessimism early in the caregiver role was found to be a warning sign for poor current and future caregiver health. High baseline pessimism signaled high levels of baseline depressive symptoms and poor physical health, as well as a faster decline in health over the 10-year study. Optimism played a role in predicting baseline depressive symptoms, although the magnitude of its beneficial contribution was not as great as the deleterious effects of pessimism. Conclusions: Nurses and clinicians have a unique opportunity to detect and intervene with caregivers who show high levels of pessimism early in the caregiving trajectory.
- Longitudinal research
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