What Support Do Caregivers of Elderly Want? Results from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging

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The aim of this paper is to document interest in support strategies among caregivers of elderly persons. We used data from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging caregiver questionnaire which included 43 informal caregivers of elderly persons living with dementia and 145 informal caregivers of elderly persons not living with dementia. While the study assessed interest in attending support groups (10.4%), receiving telephone support from either a professional (44.9%) or a fellow caregiver (41.0%), receiving a newsletter (40.5%), receiving volunteer support (24.2%), and interest in support via computer (14.8%), there were no significant differences between the two groups with regard to interest in any of the support services. Implications for program delivery are discussed. Planners may want to consider adding telephone support and newsletters to other supports already available for caregivers.


Afin de documenter l'interet des pourvoyeurs de coins aux personnel agees it l'egard de diverses strategies de soutien, nous avons utilise les donnees du questionnaire aux soignants de l'Etude sur la same et le vieillissement au Canada, administre notamment it 43 soignants informels de personnel agees atteintes de demence et at 145 soignants informels de personnes Agees non atteintes de demence. Notre etude evaluait leur interet at participer a des groupes de soutien (10,4 %) ou a recevoir du soutien telephonique d'un professionnel (44,9 %) ou d'un collegue (41,0 %), un bulletin d'information (40,5 %), du soutien benevole (24,2 %) et du soutien par ordinateur (14,8 %). Nous n'avons toutefois constate aucune difference significative entre les deux groupes. L'etude aborde aussi les incidences possibles sur (execution des programmes. Les planificateurs pourraient envisager l'ajout d'un soutien telephonique et de bulletins d'information aux ressources deja offertes aux soignants.

The Canadian Study of Health and Aging1 has indicated that almost 50% of the elderly in Canada are already assisted primarily by informal caregivers (unpaid family and friends) in a community setting. This has great public health implications in light of the projected increase of our elderly population. There is a need to explore a variety of means to support these caregivers in ways that are acceptable to them. A dearth of research is available on the preferences of these caregivers for different types of support.

A recent study conducted among community-living caregivers of persons with dementia indicated a stronger interest in receiving support via telephone and newsletter than through support groups or via computer. Little is known of the preferences of these types of support (or other types of support such as the use of volunteers)2-5 among larger samples of caregivers. The aim of this paper is to describe how interested caregivers of seniors are in various support strategies using a large national sample of caregivers. We compare the preferences of caregivers of persons with dementia with other caregivers since there is strong evidence that dementia care is different from other types of family caregiving.6



We used data from a national sample of caregivers from the 1996 second wave of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (CSHA-2). A more detailed description of the methodology is found elsewhere.1

Included in our sub-sample were primary caregivers of a senior in the community who had indicated that they were "informal", that is a friend or relative of the senior.1 Two hundred and eighty-seven (287) of the 1,129 caregivers in this sample were community-living informal caregivers and therefore fit our criteria for inclusion. Unfortunately, because the survey questions relevant to our study were added to the CSHA-2 caregiver questionnaire as an appendix, 64 subjects did not complete these queries and were, therefore, excluded from the analysis. There were no significant differences between the 64 who did not participate and the caregivers that did. …