Caregiving stress has been associated with considerable demands imposed on parents responsible for the physical and emotional care of medically fragile children. With health care advances in medicine and technology, there are a growing number of children with chronic conditions and disabilities (i.e., the medically fragile) surviving longer and being cared for almost exclusively in the home by parents. The physical strains, financial constraints, emotional effects, and social isolation experienced by parents caring for children with such complex medical needs may ultimately impact their physical and emotional health. Stress associated with the caregiving of older adults has been shown to negatively impact on health and immune functioning with the potential for associated morbidity. Studies exploring the relationship of stress with biological markers of immune functioning in parents have not been widely conducted. Therefore, there is a great opportunity in parent-child health for researchers to investigate implications of stress on immune functioning and health outcomes in parents caring for medically fragile children at home. The purpose of this review article will be to provide an overview of the literature related to caregiving stress and immune functioning and to discuss implications for research in this area with parents of medically fragile children.
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