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Linking Family Dynamics and the Mental Health of Colombian Dementia Caregivers

This cross-sectional, quantitative, self-report study examined the relationship between family dynamics (cohesion, flexibility, pathology/ functioning, communication, family satisfaction, and empathy) and mental health (depression, burden, stress, and satisfaction with life [SWL]) in 90 dementia caregivers from Colombia. Hierarchical multiple regressions controlling for caregiver demographics found that family dynamics were significantly associated with caregiver depression, stress, and SWL and marginally associated with burden. Within these regressions, empathy was uniquely associated with stress; flexibility with depression and marginally with SWL; and family communication marginally with burden and stress. Nearly all family dynamic variables were bivariately associated with caregiver mental health variables, such that caregivers had stronger mental health when their family dynamics were healthy.

The findings from the current study indicate that family dynamics and dementia caregiver mental health are robustly related in Colombia, and that flexibility, empathy, and communication within families may be particularly connected to caregiver mental health. In cultures that strongly value familial commitment and the interdependence of the extended family, especially in the context of caring for a loved one with dementia, the utilization of relationship-focused coping strategies may play an important role in caregivers’ mental health outcomes. Family-systems interventions in global regions with high levels of familism like that in the current study may improve family communication and empathy, thereby producing better caregiver mental health and better informal care for people with dementia.


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