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The challenges associated with providing community care for people with complex needs in rural areas: a qualitative investigation

Siobhan McCann, Assumpta Ann Ryan, Hugh McKenna
Health & Social Care in the Community 2005, 13 (5): 462-9
16048534
The aim of the present study was to explore the experiences of recipients and providers of community care in rural areas in Northern Ireland. Additionally, the authors sought to examine the impact of location, housing and environmental factors on the delivery of community care to older people with complex needs. Individual, semistructured interviews were held with service users (n = 17) and family carers (n = 14). Individual and focus group interviews were conducted with care assistants, health and social care professionals, and senior managers from a large health and social care trust and health and social services board in Northern Ireland. The importance of enabling older people to remain in their own homes and communities was emphasised by all participants. The main challenges associated with care provision in rural areas included: difficulties recruiting care assistants; lack of choice of care assistants; isolation; travel and distance between clients and their care assistants; and poor housing conditions. There was a general consensus among participants that the effectiveness of rural community care was perceived to be reliant upon the goodwill of the community. Additionally, changing demographic trends and the predicted shortfall in the number of formal and informal carers were considered key issues for service planners. A number of creative strategies could be used to address many of the limitations associated with rural isolation. These should involve capitalising on available community networks. However, planners should also acknowledge that additional resources are required to maintain older people in rural communities.

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