Caregivers & Social Support
There were 33.9 million family caregivers of people over age 50 in the United States in 2004, and it is projected that by 2050 there will be 81 million. (Bookman, et al., Family Caregiver Handbook). “Caregiving is hard work…It is important that we listen to caregivers in order to know what their needs are and then address the specific needs they identify.” (Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Founder of the Rosalyn Carter institute for Caregiving in Bookman, et al., Family Caregiver Handbook). Daycare services, respite services and other home care supports are essential to patient and caregiver well being.
Social support is important to older adults and caregivers. Affect, affirmation and aid are the functions of social support; the social network is the structure through which they are attained. Social networks can be thought of as “Convoys over the life course.” (Kahn and Antonucci, 1980). An individual’s convoy at any point in time consists of the set of persons on whom they rely for support and/ or those who rely on them for support. Healthy persons with higher social integration (social support network) scores are at lower risk for mortality than their isolated counterparts (Berkman & Syme, 1979). Social support is thought to either reduce stress itself or facilitate efforts to cope (Monet and Lazarus, 1985). Recent research also indicates that social support boosts memory and delays memory loss (Cozolin, L., Norton, 2008.) Both older adults and their caregivers are at risk from diminished social support.