The Experiences and Challenges of Caregivers of Frail or Chronically Ill Elderly: An Integrative Review

  • Han, Hae-Ra (Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing)
  • Published : 2006.12.31


BACKGROUND: Social, legal, and economic factors have changed the delivery of care to elderly who are frail and/or chronically ill. Increasing number of the elderly are now treated in the community, while living with or in close proximity to their family. It is evident that families play a major role of support for elderly persons in our society. This paper provides a review and analysis of studies that have investigated informal caregiving issues encompassing physical, psychological, emotional, and social domains. RESULTS OF THE REVIEW: Family caregiving often interfered with workplace and other responsibilities, creating physical, emotional, and financial stress for caregivers. Relatively high volumes of research addressed caregiving issues in the families of Alzheimer patients and in the areas of emotional and psychological impact of caregiving. Few studies explicitly investigated the role of informal caregivers in the management of other chronic conditions such as stroke or depression or physical consequences of long-term caregiving. While most studies were focused on negative aspects of caregiving, a few studies found it rewarding. Often the burden, stress, and socio-economic effects on the family caregiving for an elderly person were not sufficiently appreciated. CONCLUSIONS: Positive outcomes for both the caregiver and the care recipient are more likely to occur when effective levels of collaboration exist between health professionals and caregivers. As a first step, a better understanding of the caregiving experience such as caregiver characteristics, care recipient characteristics, and social stigma is important for nurses to minimize the burden of care so that appropriate interventions can be developed. In addition, further studies are needed to examine the role and needs of informal caregivers in the care of increasing number of frail and/or chronic ill elderly treated in the community.