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A New Caregiver Role is Complex

As America ages and baby boomers become caregivers the new social structure dramatically changes everyday life and family relationships. In particular, the early stages when a spouse or an adult child becomes a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of progressive dementia are fraught with a tug-of-war of emotions from resentment to protectiveness.

“Little has been known about what happens in the everyday lives and in relationships in very early stages of the caregiving,” said Kathryn Betts Adams, assistant professor of social work at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

A New Caregiver Role is Complex   Adams examined the changing dynamics of familial relationships in the early onset of dementia. Her findings appear in the article, “The Transition to Caregiving: The Experience of Family Members Embarking on the Dementia Caregiving Career,” in the November issue of the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

She got a glimpse into the lives of these families through interviews with the spouses and children of individuals with dementia, through a study funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Adams pointed out that many families are reluctant to see help until a crisis arises and forces the family to seek services. It can take some families up to two years before asking for that outside help.

“At work in this early stage,” Adam said, “there seems to be a strong desire to keep things as they were, to stick with familiar routines as much as possible, and to manage without resorting to obtaining extra help.”

The role of caregiver begins when at least one daily task needs to be done for the care recipient. That can be a reminder to take a shower or to do a simple task the individual always performed.

Adams reported that many family members began to take on more responsibilities—many they have not done before such as wives balancing checkbooks that once were husbands’ responsibility and husbands taking on housekeeping tasks like doing dishes and laundry. She found that the early stage of caregiving is marked by many struggles with negotiating care and decision-making and that taking over responsibilities is not a smooth process for many caregivers.

Throughout the interviews, family members reported experiencing frustration, resentment, grief and loss of intimacy while at the same time increasing protectiveness and tenderness towards the person experiencing the dementia. The spouses also began to mourn the loss of their intimacy with their partners as roles shifted from a marital to caregiving.

This information will enable social workers to help families transition and understand that what they are experiencing is normal for those individuals thrust into the caretaker role, said Adams.

She added that social workers can also find ways to help individuals diagnosed with cognitive impairment to find ways to lead as normal a life as possible.

Source: Case Western Reserve University

A New Caregiver Role is Complex

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). A New Caregiver Role is Complex. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2006/11/29/a-new-caregiver-role-is-complex/440.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.