JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Rural women caregivers in Canada

Kay E Crosato, Beverly Leipert
Rural and Remote Health 2006, 6 (2): 520
16752958

CONTEXT: Informal caregiving within rural contexts in Canada is increasing. This is due in part to a number of factors related to the restructuring of the Canadian health care system, the regionalization of services to urban locations, the increased population of people 65 years and older, and the desire of this population to age within their rural homes. Most often, the informal caregiving role is assumed by rural women. Women tend to fall into the role of informal caregiver to elders because of the many societal and gender expectations and values that are present within the rural culture. The purpose of this literature review is to identify the context in which women provide care for an elder in rural Canada. Illustrating these issues will help to uncover challenges and barriers rural women face when providing care and highlight recommendations and implications for rural women caregivers and nurses employed within rural settings.

ISSUES: Many rural women share similar caregiving experiences as urban informal caregivers, but rural women are faced with additional challenges in providing quality care for an elder. Rural women caregivers are faced with such issues as limited access to adequate and appropriate healthcare services, culturally incongruent health care, geographical distance from regionalized centers and health services, transportation challenges, and social/geographical isolation. In addition to these issues, many rural women are faced with the multiple role demands that attend being a wife, mother, caregiver and employee. The pile up of these factors leaves rural women caregivers susceptible to additional stresses and burn out, with limited resources on which to depend.

LESSONS: Through reviewing pertinent literature, appropriate implications and recommendations can be made that may assist rural women caregivers and rural nurses. Nurses working within rural communities are in ideal settings to work collaboratively in building supportive relationships with rural women in order to promote the health and wellbeing of caregivers, as well as the elders for which they provide care. More research is needed regarding rural women and their caregiving experiences of elders. In addition, rural and remote courses and practicums should be made available to nursing students in order to encourage them and to support them in nursing careers in rural settings, thereby providing rural women caregivers with additional appropriate and consistent healthcare services. Also, governments and policy makers should consider the rural context and the challenges that are associated with providing care to an elder in a rural setting to ensure that rural women caregivers and their care recipients are well supported within their rural communities.

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