Caregivers at Risk?: Changes in Leisure Participation

By Dunn, Nicole J.; Strain, Laurel A. | Journal of Leisure Research, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Caregivers at Risk?: Changes in Leisure Participation


Dunn, Nicole J., Strain, Laurel A., Journal of Leisure Research


This article examined the likelihood of reducing and/or ceasing leisure activities, reasons for these changes, and the relationship between caregivers' characteristics, caregiving experiences, and leisure participation among a sample of 517 informal caregivers of Adult Day Care clients in Manitoba, Canada. Reduction and cessation of leisure activities were considered separately and in combination. The results indicated that not all caregivers of these older adults changed their leisure participation although there was an at-risk group. A lack of time due to caregiving was the most frequently identified reason for a change. The relationship between caregiver characteristics, the caregiving experience, and leisure participation was complex and varied depending on the dimension of leisure participation examined. Implications for future research and practice are highlighted.

KEYWORDS: Caregivers, leisure, leisure activities, older adults, barriers

Introduction

Stress, strain, and negative responses to caregiving are well recognized as issues which can alter a caregiver's lifestyle (Aneshensel, Pearlin, Mullan, Zarit, & Whitlatch, 1995; Ory Hoffman, Yee, Tennstedt, & Schulz, 1999; Pearlin, Aneshensel, Mullan, & Whitlatch, 1996). While leisure has been identified as a coping resource (Bedini & Bilbro, 1991; Dupuis & Pedlar, 1995; Keller & Tu, 1994; Sneegas, 1988), the extent to which caregivers change their leisure participation is not clear. The U.S. Select Committee on Aging (1987) noted that "caregivers tend to double up on their responsibilities and to cut back on their leisure time in order to fulfill all of their caregiving tasks" (p. 27). Garegivers have been reported to adjust their lives by reducing participation in, or giving up, activities/interests such as regular exercise, hobbies, free time for oneself, sex life, opportunities to socialize with friends, community involvement, vacations, and leisure time pursuits and activities (Barusch, 1988; Brattain Rogers, 1997; Sneegas, 1988).

The work of Miller and Montgomery (1990) and White-Means and Chang (1994) suggests that some caregivers experience limits to their leisure participation due to caregiving while others do not. Drawing on the 1982 U.S. National Long Term Care Survey and the Informal Caregiver Survey, Miller and Montgomery (1990) found that 50% of the 1,167 spousal and adult children caregivers indicated that taking care of their older family member limited their social life or free time. White-Means and Chang (1994) analysed data from 1982-84 National Long-Term Care Channelling Evaluation Project that focused on frail older adults at risk of institutionalization and their informal caregivers. Of the 1,929 caregivers, 69% limited the time they had to spend with family due to caring for the older adult. In addition, 55% indicated that their social life and free time were limited. Overall, 74% of these caregivers experienced limits to family and/or free time.

Results from a qualitative study of 16 female caregivers (Bedini & Guinan, 1996a) also suggest variations among caregivers. These researchers distinguished between four groups of caregivers in terms of their leisure participation. The repressors and resenters were unable to participate in leisure due to caregiving responsibilities, with the former group expressing no need for leisure and the latter being disappointed and displeased about being unable to participate. In contrast, consolidators and rechargers continued to participate in leisure. However, the consolidators had modified their leisure plans.

The likelihood of caregivers reducing the frequency of leisure participation or completely ceasing some activities requires increased attention. There is a need to distinguish between reducing and ceasing leisure participation (Zimmer, Hickey, & Searle, 1997). It is possible that some caregivers reduce the frequency of leisure participation but do not cease specific activities. …

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