A phenomenological examination of the caregiving experience of elderly spousal caregivers
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Type of Workapplication/pdf
ix, 206 pages
DepartmentTowson University. Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science
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Problem: Older adults with chronic illness often require extensive informal care. Informal care generally is provided by family members, and increasingly, elderly spouses. Providing care to a loved one has the potential to last for weeks, months, and in chronic illness management, even decades. The literature has shown that there can be great burden and stress in the occupation of spousal caregiving. The purpose of this study was to examine the caregiving process in a sample of informal elderly spousal caregivers caring for a chronically, medically ill spouse. In order for occupational therapists to assist elderly spouses in their caregiving occupation, they must have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the caregiving experience. Methodology: A qualitative phenomenological approach was utilized to provide an in-depth look at the elderly spousal caregiving process. Research questions in this study explored the culture, occupation, successful aging and occupational justice in elderly spousal caregiving. Data was collected from a purposive sampling of five elderly spousal caregivers through a series of four long interviews that were audio taped and then transcribed. Statements were transformed into clusters of meanings. The data analysis process transformed these clusters to make a general description of the experience for each participant including a textural description, a structural description and finally a texturalstructural synthesis. Conclusion: Four themes emerged from the data: the culture of elderly spousal caregiving is one of forced self-reliance; the occupation of elderly spousal caregiving centers around concern for safety; elderly spousal caregiving challenges one's ability to age successfully and elderly spousal caregiving is an unjust occupation. Elderly spouses committed themselves to caregiving when their loved one needed help in the home. The caregiving occupation involved advocacy, multiple interactions with formal healthcare and challenges to physical and emotional capabilities. Elderly spouses learned through trial and error, were isolated and confined, and were often the sole provider of care. Clinical considerations included a population-based approach for occupational therapists with the intent of a triad approach to care: therapist, patient and caregiver.