The purpose of this research is to examine caregiver role strain as a result of caring for the elderly with chronic illness, the role of social support in relieving caregiver role strain and its impact on the overall health of the older adult and the caregiver. With aging, come ailments that leave the elderly in need of caregivers to better their quality of life (Burholt & Schalf 2013). Body: As humans age, so do the deterioration of their health which is manifested in terms of physical and psychological changes.
As a result, they tend to depend on caregivers for assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). Wolfe et al, 2014 explained that in a growing population that is growing older, it is important to use health promoting resources such as social support. As a result of using such resources, the stress of caregiving is taken off the caregivers thereby improving their quality of care to the ailing older adult and improving quality of life for both of them. Caregivers could be either family members or paid staff.
To begin with, it is usually the family member of the chronically ill who assumes the role of caregiver and carries out the responsibilities required. Caregiving can be very stressful and this can place the caregiver in a risk for both mental and physical problems (Perkins et al, 2012). Undoubtedly, caregivers could experience very stressful situations from assuming the responsibilities of providing care to a loved one who is chronically ill. This outcome also depends on the age, race and sex of the caregivers.
In their research study, Perkins et al, 2012 used a research method called REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) to assess caregiver role strain. It examined each participant’s caregiving status and strain, their self-rated health, if they were experiencing any depressive symptoms, chronic diseases or comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases. It resulted that those who strained more and even died were more likely those with a mean average age of about 70years, males and Caucasians compared to African Americans.
According to Commans et al, 2010, some of the causes of caregiver role strain included factors such as decrease participation in their own daily activities and comorbidities of the caregivers. According to Butterworth et al, 2010, caregivers reported a significant amount of poorer mental health including anxiety and depression compared to non-caregivers. The caregivers studied also reported poorer physical health, greater financial problems, greater household task responsibilities, conflict with other family members and less social support.
Such strain could lead to anxiety and depression, physical impairment, lack of social outreach and great conflict within themselves. Through intervention, such strain can be amendable (Butterworth et al 2010). Social support and resolving family conflicts could be a good start. Social support could be in the form of extended family support, support from friends, church activities and community activities. Interventions also depended on the age, sex, race, education, available social support and religious coping.
Lee et al, 2010, explored the effects of these demographic differences in improving interventions towards caregiver role strain. A case example is black or African American caregiver who compared to Hispanics and Caucasians have a positive effect from social activities, including religious coping. They showed less anxiety and depressive symptoms. Overall, Lee et al, 2010 demonstrated in their study that age, sex and religious coping are important on the effects of caregiver role strain. They had more positive effects for women who were more religious than those who were not.
Another intervention to cut down on caregiver role strain is by encouraging caregivers to participate in volunteering services and joining support groups where both the older adult and the caregiver can participate. Interacting with others out of the home could relieve psychological strain involved in caring for an older adult with dementia for example. In their study, Pilkington et al, 2012 sought out that volunteering included family, friends, and neighbors. “Causal links between volunteering and social support are likely to be bidirectional.
Although volunteering may promote opportunities for forming new friendships, people with preexisting supportive social networks are also more likely to become volunteers due to greater exposure to recruitment by others”(Pilkington et al, 2012). Those who spent about 7 or more hours of volunteering a week experienced a greater positive effect compared to those who didn’t. “The availability of social support from friends was the only social network variable to significantly account for the higher levels of positive affect” (Pilkington et al, 2012).
Allowing other people such as friends, church members, neighbors who are willing to step in once in a while to give a helping hand while caregivers take a break could relieve the caregiver role stain. Finally, some caregivers of chronically ill older adults have found a hand full of help by joining support groups either online or in person. This is critical because support groups gives them the chance to find respite, share their experiences, participate in organized activities, express their concerns, get tips, and receive emotional comfort from other caregivers or just well-wishers. Thomas, 2010).
Conclusion: As humans age, so also do their health both physically and mentally. It is a phase of life which cannot be avoided and will arrive and stay till death takes its toll. Problems of old age are mostly emotional or mental (dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, loneliness) and physical (arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease just to name a few). Family or paid staff steps in to assist the chronically ill older adult with their Activities of Daily Living or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living.
The caregiver role can negatively play a big role on the mental and physical health of the caregiver because of the stress involved in caring for the chronically ill older adult. When the caregiver is strained, it can as well worsen health status of the older adult due to the overall stress surrounding their environment. This research paper examined caregiver role strain and how social support can positively impact their lives.
By participating in social activities or joining social networks, the caregiver has a chance of expressing their concerns, sharing or listening to someone else’s experience, getting tips and receives emotional comfort. On the part of the chronically ill older adult, he or she has a chance of meeting new people and also participating in organized activities outside the home. These overall improves lessens the burden on the caregiver, reduce physical and mental strain, thereby improving both quality of life for the older adult and the caregiver.