Study Urges Empowering Care Receivers

Article excerpt

Researchers on caregiving for elders have long noted the importance of caregiver empowerment, especially around the issues of physical and emotional burnout. However, very little research has focused on the part the receivers of eldercare play in the success of their care situation. Also, little research has been devoted to developing interventions to assist older care receivers in defining their strengths and needs, and helping them develop useful knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors and competencies that may enhance their ability to be effectively involved in their own care.

However, a recent study indicates that interventions aimed at strengthening care receivers' awareness of and meaningful participation in their caregiving improves the process for everyone involved. Enid Cox, director of the University of Denver's Institute of Gerontology, and Katharine Hobart, supervisor of the Institute's Care-Receiver Efficacy Intervention Project, presented their study, "Strengthening the Caregiving Process: An Overview of a Care-Receiver's Interventions," at the Third International Conference on Family Care, held in Arlington, Va., in October.

THE KEY QUESTION

According to Cox, the study was based on seven qualitative studies and pilot intervention projects done by the institute's researchers. The researchers addressed the following question "How can elderly care receivers make the caregiving process more efficacious, and therefore more satisfying, for both themselves and their care providers)?" Cox said the answer that emerged was for elderly care receivers to become partners in their own care.

The research team first obtained descriptions of the care-receiving process by project participants, who ranged in age from 56 to Joo. Hobart said that these interviews allowed researchers to develop themes about the receipt of care from the perspective of elder participants.

The interviews "also provided knowledge about a wide variety of survival strategies," she said. Hobart added that the defining theme most elderly care receivers are working with is "their struggle related to independence, interdependence and dependence," as they adopt or develop various aspects of the care-receiving role.

In Cox and Hobart's qualitative studies and pilot intervention projects-involving almost 250 care recipients and nearly 100 caregivers to date-care-receiver empowerment has occurred through one-- on-one or group "interventions," sometimes both. These counseling sessions increase the skills of older care receivers in terms of physical fitness, fiscal and emotional self-reliance, and self-care, as well as the ability to cope with feelings and values regarding increasing dependency. …