Well-Being among Caregivers of Indigent Black Elderly

By White-Means, Shelley I.; Thornton, Michael C. | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

Well-Being among Caregivers of Indigent Black Elderly


White-Means, Shelley I., Thornton, Michael C., Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Caring for elderly family members forces caregivers to cope with a number of factors that can take their toll on the caregiver's emotional well-being (Fitting et al., 1986; Zarit, Todd, and Zarit, 1986). The resulting burden can lead to depression, frustration, and helplessness (Poulshock and Deimling, 1984; Gallagher et al., 1989), and may be particularly problematic for females (Coppel et al., 1985; Zarit, Todd, and Zarit, 1986). While the relationship between caregiving, burden and well-being has received attention within the general population, it has been neglected among caregivers of diverse racial backgrounds (Morycz et al., 1987). This study will examine ways that social support, family resources, and caregiving burden influence well-being among a group of black caregivers.

LITERATURE REVIEW

General Well-Being

In the general population, well-being has been associated with social status (Herzog, et al., 1982), life circumstances and situations (e.g., health status and stress) (Herzog, et al., 1982; Neighbors, 1986) and social resources (e.g., social support) (House and Robbins, 1983). What factors affect well-being among blacks are just beginning to emerge (Ellison, 1990; Ball and Robbins, 1986; Chatters, Taylor and Jackson, 1986; Chatters, 1988; Krause and Tran, 1989). Researchers have explored the association between marital status, gender, and social class. Married blacks report higher levels of well-being than do their unmarried counterparts (Zollar and Williams, 1987. Jackson, et al., 1977; Jackson, Chatters and Neighbors, 1986; Tran, Wright and Chatters, 1991). Both gender and class are ambiguously related. Some researchers describe no gender differences (Linn, Hunter and Perry, 1979), while others report that men have more positive outlooks on life (Kessler, 1979). Even less clear is the relationship between social class (i.e., income and educational status) and subjective well-being. For example, Ehrlich (1973) reported a positive relationship between the two, whereas Jackson and colleagues found no significant association (Jackson, Bacon, and Peterson 1977; Jackson, Chatters, and Neighbors, 1986). Still others describe a curvilinear (Campbell, Converse and Rodgers, 1976) or a negative association (Alston, Lowe and Wrigley, 1974). In one of the few studies looking at the effect of stress on blacks, Tran, Wright and Chatters (1991) described it as having a negative effect on well-being.

Social Support, Burden and Well-Being

The general literature described higher incidences of perceived burden in caregiving situations when personal care and bodily contact are involved (Montgomery, Gonyea, and Hooyman, 1985) and when the spouse or other caregiver lives in the same household as the elder (Cantor, 1983). In the latter case, lower rates of well-being are also expected (George and Gwyther, 1986). Burden and increasing care hours are also positively associated (Thompson, et al., 1993). Social support, such as from friends, mediates caregiving burden (George and Gwyther, 1986; Lawton, et al., 1992) and makes little difference (Thompson, et al., 1993).

Despite a growing literature on informal support among black elderly (e.g., Taylor, et al., 1990 for a review of the literature), research on the links between support and well-being is rare. Emerging works suggest a positive connection between involvement in an extended family support network and well-being. Reported satisfaction with support from family and friends was associated with reduced distress among unemployed and employed black caregivers (Brown and Gary, 1988; Linn, Hunter and Perry, 1979). In a study of black and white caregivers of demented elderly, Lawton, et al., (1992) found that the caregiving experience was more positive for black caregivers than for whites. However, among blacks, burden was associated with depression and higher incomes. Feelings of burden decreased when caregivers were assisted in their tasks. …

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