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Rural Caregiver

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Rural Caregivers Living in Shadowland
By Hilary Gibson, Staff Writer
(Page 2 of 3)

Virginia Techís Center for Gerontology Research conducted a study in 2000 of approximately 200 caregivers of older adults living in rural areas in southwest Virginia. While itís a recognized fact that caregiving isnít restricted to just those who care only for the elderly, this study is one that clearly shows the needs, frustrations, and experiences that all rural caregivers go through, no matter the age, disability or circumstance of the person for whom they care. One of the more interesting facts that the study uncovered was something specific only to rural caregivers. Young people tend to move away from rural areas for education opportunities or for better employment, leaving the rural community with fewer and fewer potential, future caregivers. Their urban and suburban caregiving counterparts donít really have to concern themselves with this happening, since major migration away from heavier, populated areas rarely occurs.

Distance and isolation are a continual theme among rural caregivers, posing a significant problem for them to receive proper preparation for their role as caregiver. In rural areas, caregivers have the least amount of access to outreach programs and community services than any other caregiver group. This is why certain investigations, such as the nursing-intervention study, Home Care Training for Family Caregivers of Rural Elders, conducted by principal investigator Mary Ann Rosswurm, EdD, RN, CS, FAAN and co-investigator, June H. Larrabee, PhD, RN are so important. Perhaps the findings of such studies will compel local, state, and federal government to find ways to begin easing the burden placed upon the shoulders of rural caregivers. By conducting small, in-home training sessions and groups for rural caregivers, either through video teleconferencing or onsite instruction, significantly positive changes occurred. According to the findings, these training sessions made rural caregivers more aware of their own resourcefulness, plus gave them new ideas and knowledge, helping them to feel more competent about their capabilities as a caregiver.  It didnít seem to matter if the caregiver received needed information through in-home, onsite instruction, or through video teleconferencing, because there was not a significant difference in outcome for either group. The main issue was that the rural caregivers received information and education that not only helped them to feel better about themselves, but improved their quality of life as well.

Other studies have been done primarily in Canada, since there is still so much rural area throughout the country. While these studies are helpful in knowing certain outcomes, the changes in policy that may come about unfortunately are not yet being instituted in our own country. Quite recently, Canada added rural palliative care programs to their formal health care system, enabling people in rural areas with terminal illness to receive proper pain management. Although  this program has been developed with the best of intentions, there are some serious drawbacks to it, including the long distances involved with caring for a patient, weather adversities and severities, and difficulty in finding the resources needed in a rural area to properly support a patient and the family caregivers. The main goal of this program, as with any rural health care program, is to keep the patient in their familiar environment for as long as possible.

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