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Rural Caregiver

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Rural Caregivers Living in Shadowland
By Hilary Gibson, Staff Writer
(Page 1 of 3)

Caregivers in the United States currently number close to 54 million, with this figure expected to climb even higher because of the 75 million aging baby-boomers. The odds are in favor of almost every person (at some point in their lifetime) becoming a caregiver for a spouse, an elderly parent, or for a child or grandchild. What once seemed to be an exclusive club is quickly filling-up with more and more caregivers as its constituents. The situations that place people into the role as caregiver transcend all socio-economic levels, age, race, religion, and workplace status. Since caregiving can be such a daunting task, every shred of help, information and education obtained can make a big difference in how a person goes about taking on this role. Itís much easier to cope with the demands of caregiving if the family is living in an urban or suburban area. The obvious reason being easier access to different agencies, organizations, and outreach programs, not to mention available forms of transportation. But imagine all the caregiver responsibilities and stresses compounded by issues of time and distance - this is what the rural caregiver must face - along with feeling alone, forgotten, and ignored.

Rural caregivers have special needs, concerns and barriers that their urban and suburban counterparts do not have to consider. Challenges such as isolation, transportation, separation from extended family and the standard of living are just a few of the issues that a rural caregiver must face, along with the already challenging task of caring for a loved one. More importantly, how does a rural caregiver receive proper training and education to be able to tend to their loved oneís needs? Agencies and outreach programs donít exist around the corner, or even down the block, but are instead miles away from where the rural caregiver can access them easily or quickly. In order for the rural caregiver to attend any type of training or education on how to care for a loved one, they must  embark on what will be a major undertaking. First, they must find some sort of respite care to come in to their home, in order to watch their loved one while they are away receiving caregiven support, training and education. Second, they must find reliable transportation that will take them to a training facility. What if the distance is great enough that the rural caregiver must spend an entire day, even over night, away from their loved one? Who is qualified to watch their loved one for an extended period of time? What will all this cost and where will the money come from?  There are so many more complex components thrown in to rural caregiving that itís exhausting just thinking about them. What can a rural caregiver do? What are some of the solutions for distance, time, and isolation?

Very few studies have been done specifically about the plight of the rural caregiver and the effect that caregiving has had on them. However, the studies that have been done to date, show a pattern of similar qualities and responses among rural caregivers. It isnít too surprising that one of the similarities noted most, are the ones shared with the rest of family caregivers. The majority of rural caregivers are women who are daughters, daughters-in-law or spouses between the ages of 40 and 70. Common effects of caregiving on this group include feelings of burden, strain, role fatigue, role overload, stress and perceived stress. The issue of isolation plays an even greater role in the psyche of the rural caregiver, leading to feelings of fatigue, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, frustration, and financial concerns, all usually stemming from a lack of social support.

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