"Choosing to Care" or was it "Hobson's Choice"
Edens, Elizabeth M. G.
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With the shifting of costs and responsibility for care of the frail elderly from formal healthcare providers to informal caregivers, the perspective of family caregivers is one the occupational therapy profession can ill afford to ignore. The origin of this inquiry was as a result of the researcher taking on the role as informal caregiver for her frail elderly mother for the last two years of her mother’s life. Literature highlights the ageing population and the knowledge that social policies and strategies are focused on supporting ageing-in-place. Little attention has been given to the transition for individuals who have taken on the role of informal caregiver for a frail elderly parent. The aim of this study is to explore the experiences for adult children who agree to take their frail elderly parent home with them, as part of the discharge planning process from an acute hospital setting. A qualitative interpretive descriptive method was used. The study consisted of 3 participants who were interviewed for 60-75 minutes using a semi-structured interview guide. The participants had all looked after their frail elderly parent for periods ranging from two to ten years, and were asked questions pertaining to their role in discharge planning, to their transition into the informal caregiving role and their experiences as an informal caregiver. The three themes that developed were: 1) informed choice 2) acknowledgement and 3) determination, strength and resourcefulness. The idioms of “Hobson’s choice” and “between a rock and a hard place” both illustrate how informal caregivers often describe the situations they found themselves in. Understanding of the transition and experiences of these informal caregivers can assist occupational therapists working in this area. A new model of transition called “Imparted Model of Transitioning into Informal Caregiving” is presented to support other family members in making an informed decision before taking on this role of being an informal caregiver, and to alleviate family concerns in relation to the discharge process. It is hoped that an increased understanding can lead to better support services to the caregivers themselves and thus indirectly, lead to better care for the elderly.
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