The experience of caring for someone over 75 years of age: results from a Scottish General Practice population

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Aims and objectivesTo understand the unpaid carers' experiences of looking after someone aged over 75 at all stages of their caring career.BackgroundThe role of, and support for, unpaid carers have become central in the debates surrounding community care in the UK. This paper presents the findings of a study to elicit the complexities of the caring role and inform the Primary Health Care Team to help support carers more effectively.Designs and methodsA quantitative research design was employed. Carers of people over 75 years of age in a General Practice, who had been previously identified from a screening questionnaire, were sent the Carers Assessment of Difficulties Index, the Carers Assessment of Satisfactions Index and Carers Assessment of Managing Index questionnaires which examine the experience of caring.ResultsFrom a sample of 247 carers, a 70% response rate (n = 172) was achieved. Satisfactions lay in the quality of care provided; difficulties reflected the potential and actual family tensions generated; coping strategies included reframing difficulties, using humour and practical problem solving. The data show that caregivers' reactions, such as feeling angry about the situation, or the consequences of their involvement, such as tensions within the family, cause them more difficulties than the actual care-giving tasks they perform.ConclusionThis study adds to the understanding of carers' roles by including carers across a range of situations, including those at an early stage of their caring career. Service providers are better able to support carers if they understand the complex interplay of difficulties, rewards and personal coping strategies associated with the caring role.Relevance to practiceThe study helps illuminate the less obvious, but important, emotional aspects of carers' difficulties and suggests strategies which service providers may find helpful in assessing carers' needs and determining the appropriate interventions.

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