Are you a supportive or conflicted caregiver?

Created date

November 5th, 2018
An older man hugs a younger woman, possibly his daughter.

Are you a supportive or conflicted caregiver?

Many seniors in this country rely on the active support of a family caregiver to manage chronic health conditions. But these relationships can be complicated when the needs and wants of the two individuals clash.

Research has shown that oftentimes, an older adult’s desire to be independent is in direct conflict with the caregiver’s concerns about the individual’s safety—especially in people with dementia. But researchers have also discovered several areas of friction among individuals without dementia and their caregivers.

One study showed that a significant number of older adults with severe heart disease did not appreciate excessive or unwanted phone contact. They also did not want unsolicited advice from family and friends.

Studying the caregiving relationship

In an effort to understand the complex relationships between caregivers and their loved ones, a research team conducted interviews with unpaid caregivers and care recipients to assess experiences, attitudes, and preferences about caregiving relationships. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers recruited care recipients with two or more chronic conditions but without cognitive deficits or signs of dementia-related illness. The caregivers were unpaid family or friends.

Commonalities found in caregiver duties were managing medications, coordinating health care appointments, managing paid caregivers, and speaking with medical professionals.

The researchers found several characteristics of supportive relationships, including agreement about the caregiver’s level of involvement, mutual understanding, and shared decision-making.

Characteristics of conflicted relationships included disagreement about a caregiver’s level of involvement, disagreement about each other’s competency to perform disease management tasks, under-appreciation, and disagreement over decision-making and disease management.

The researchers say their findings support a family-centered approach when people are in a caregiver relationship.

If you think you are in a nonsupportive caregiver relationship, tell a trusted health care professional or seek counseling.