Family caregivers of dependent older persons: Lived experiences of social support




Gilliland, Mary Palmore

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The domain of this study was stated as: What are the lived experiences of social support for a family caregiver who cares for a dependent older person in the home? Eleven family caregivers who could discuss their lived experiences of social support were interviewed.

The study was conducted using a phenomenological approach. Interviews were audio- tape recorded and transcribed verbatim by the researcher. The descriptions of the lived experiences of social support were analyzed using Colaizzi's (1978) phenomenological approach. Three theme categories were located: (a) assistance, (b) guidance, and (c) emotional aspects. Flowing from the theme categories were five theme clusters: (a) demands of care, (b) commitment, (c) coping, (d) loss, and (e) emotions. Twenty corresponding sub-themes were derived from the clusters.

Assistance involves direct or indirect help with the demands of care which include physical and psychological demands. Physical demands are the tasks of (a) basic and instrumental activities of daily living, (b) transporting to appointments, and (c) medical responsibilities. Psychological demands are the “mental activities” of caregiving which include (a) monitoring the care recipient's condition, (b) arranging for care and appointments, (c) decision-making, and (d) dealing with personalities and behavior problems.

Guidance is the supportive behaviors directed at increasing understanding and improving the caregivers' abilities to care for their loved ones and themselves. Guidance encompasses commitment and coping. An increased understanding of their sense of obligation and responsibility enables caregivers to make thoughtful, informed decisions that consider their needs in addition to the needs of the care recipients. Guidance about coping strategies, such as problem-solving, seeking information/advice, getting away, and writing, helps the caregiver deal more effectively with the caregiving situation.

Emotional aspects are the caring connections from supportive others to help caregivers deal with their loss and emotions. Loss includes (a) social and personal lives, (b) freedom, and (c) relationships. Emotions are (a) loneliness, (b) guilt, (c) stress, (d) anxiety, (e) sadness, (f) frustration, (g) anger, and (h) uncertainty.



Caregivers, Families & family life, Older people, Community support