Students: Jennifer Machon and Yasmin Arfeen
Supervisors: Jill Cameron, Nira Rittenberg, and Kristina Kokorelias
Background: Adult children play an important role in the care of a parent with dementia. The experience of caregiving to individuals with dementia can be shaped by the sharing of responsibilities between siblings. Research to date has not examined relationship dynamics and negotiation of care within brother and sister dyads when caring for a parent with dementia. Objective: The objective of this study was to understand how brothers and sisters experience and negotiate sharing the responsibility of caring for a parent with dementia. Methods: The current research involved a qualitative online survey and descriptive study using semi-structured interviews to explore the experience of brother-sister dyads caring for a parent with dementia. Interviews and surveys explored negotiation of division of caregiving responsibilities, resolution of associated conflict, and effects on sibling relationships.  Findings: Thematic analyses of the data revealed five major themes: (1) the goal of shared caregiving is to meet the parent needs, (2) sisters often take the lead, (3) practical issues affect sharing of caregiving activities, (4) caregiving personal resources and skills affect division of responsibilities, and (5) sharing care influences the relationship quality between siblings. Conclusions: These themes highlight the unique features of mixed-gender sibling caregiver networks and how gender influences the experience and division of caregiving responsibilities. Occupational therapists may utilize these findings to better support adult child caregivers in their experience of caring for a parent with dementia.

Students: Alexandra de la Rua and Gabrielle Kaplan
Supervisors: Jill Cameron and Kristina Kokorelias
Purpose: A caregiver is defined as someone who provides unpaid support to a family member, friend, or neighbour in need of care, and this type of unpaid support saves the government billions of dollars per year. While previous research has explored the experiences of caregivers of multiple specific illness populations separately, the universality between the experiences of these caregiver populations has not yet been explored. The objective of the current study is to identify universal themes that exist, if any, between the experiences of caregivers of five illness populations (stroke, critical illness, lung transplant, Alzheimer’s disease, and older adults with depression). Materials and Methods: The current study is a secondary analysis of primary data and utilizes a qualitative descriptive design. Data from 41 pre-existing caregiver interviews were coded and thematically analyzed. Results: Two main themes emerged concerning: (1) impact on life and (2) caregiving as an occupation. These themes are discussed in relation to illness type, and gender. Conclusions: Exploring the universality between caregiver experiences over a broad range of populations may allow for health professionals to develop general interventions and support services to better assist caregivers in their role.

Students: Mariam Youssab and Sonia Sharma
Supervisors: Jill Cameron and Kristina Kokorelias
Purpose: Despite their unmet needs, caregivers play an imperative role within the Canadian healthcare system. Much research to date has focused primarily on the support needs of caregivers from specific illness populations. The purpose of this study is to explore the universality (i.e., the commonalities) of caregiver support needs across five illness populations (Alzheimer’s dementia, seniors with depression, lung transplant, critical illness, and stroke) and determine if these needs are influenced by gender. Materials and Methods: A qualitative descriptive secondary analysis was completed using 41 pre-transcribed semi-structured interviews gathered across the five illness populations, of which there was a representation both male and female caregivers. Using the NVivo software, a thematic analysis was completed; overarching themes and sub-themes were then discussed and finalized. Results: Two overarching themes emerged: 1) Caregivers have multiple support needs and 2) Caregiver support needs stem from multiple sources of support. These themes were met with several sub-themes which were mostly proven to be universal across illnesses (with some exceptions within the depression population) while reflecting no influence of gender. Conclusions: Caregivers, both male and female, across five illness populations have universal support needs stemming from multiple sources. Keywords: Caregivers, Support Needs, Stroke, Alzheimer’s Dementia, Depression, Critical Illness, Lung Transplant, Gender

Students: Abigail Leung and Christine Nguyen
Supervisors: Sarah Munce
Rationale: During adolescence, many individuals with Cerebral Palsy (CP) or Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) are at higher risk of lowered psychosocial functioning, such as poor mental health outcomes and decreased opportunities for community integration (CI). It is imperative to further explore the psychosocial functioning among this population in order to provide appropriate supports.  Objectives: 1) To describe the characteristics, including mental health characteristics, of patients in the LIFEspan Service; 2) To determine whether there are sex differences in levels of depression, anxiety, and CI; 3) To determine whether there are condition-specific differences (CP versus ABI) in levels of depression, anxiety, and CI. Methods: This is a quantitative cross-sectional study of current patients of the LIFEspan Service. 186 patients completed standardized screening tools for depression and anxiety (PHQ-4) and CI (CIQ). Personal health information was also collected from patient charts, or through participant interviews. Associations of sex and condition with the outcomes of depression, anxiety, and CI were calculated using chi-square tests. Results: Females were found to have significantly higher levels of CI, as well as trended towards greater anxiety compared to males. No significant differences were found in the levels of depression, anxiety, or CI based on condition. Practice implications: Examination of the mental health challenges and CI barriers for adolescents with CP and ABI will inform the development of future interventions to better target prevention and management of psychosocial functioning for this population. Recognizing such needs would allow for greater client-centered care in promoting functional independence for this population.  Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that there may be sex differences in CI among individuals with CP and ABI. This study may inform assessments and interventions to support the functional independence of this youth with CP and ABI. This study may also inform program development for the LIFEspan Service to facilitate improved transitions from pediatric to adult care.