Women's views of caring for family members: use of respite care

Sirpa Salin, Päivi Astedt-Kurki
Journal of Gerontological Nursing 2007, 33 (9): 37-45
The purpose of this study was to describe the life situation of informal caregivers who regularly use respite services when caring for their older relative. The sample consisted of 17 wife and daughter caregivers who frequently relied on respite care to support coping at home. Data were analyzed by inductive content analysis. Spousal caregivers in a warm, loving relationship or who longed for their lost relationship with a husband experiencing a memory disorder did not identify themselves as informal caregivers, but principally as wives. Periods of respite invoked feelings of emptiness; on the other hand, they offered an opportunity for these caregivers to take care of their own health. The younger spouses also felt it was a relief to have time for their own interests. Caregivers who felt that being with the care recipient was an obligation described their relationship as mainly caregiving. In relationships focusing on organizing the daily routines, caregivers welcomed respite as a relief but experienced unexpected feelings of guilt. Those who felt imprisoned by the care recipient relied on respite to help them cope with a burdensome relationship, while waiting for their loved one's transfer into permanent institutional care. The results of the study challenge health care professionals to commit themselves to family-centered work, in which knowing the family's history and current life situation is key to providing high-quality services.

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