Saturday, December 14, 2013

Older Adult Support: Do They Want or Need It? (Research)

Have you noticed that the older people get, the more they are viewed as being in need of support? The problem with this generalized way of thinking is that support can be a very complex consideration. First of all, how do older people really feel about being receivers of support? Researchers of older adults set out to find that answer by interviewing community-dwelling, childless, older adults who were perceived by many to be “at risk” of lack of support.

The real meaning of support became more evident when the level of receiving support had to be defined. When researchers and assessors asked participants if they had enough support, responses regarding support and the experience of receiving it were explained in diverse ways:

   1) Some participants received support resulting from particular circumstances such as illness. They  viewed this kind of support as acceptable due to qualities of the support giver, and/or by being part of  reciprocal exchanges across time.

   2)  Participants resisted support, however, when associated with difficult interpersonal dynamics or the  giver’s assumptions about the receiver’s incapacity.

   3)  Some expressed concerns about wanting to be independent and not needing support.

   4)  Some felt the idea of being old and the equivalent of being in need of support was negative in terms of  being a support receiver.

Where do these responses leave researchers, needs assessors, and potential support givers? These responses emphasize the importance of examining how support receivers view themselves and their particular support needs before attempting to fulfill them. Support givers must not make misleading assumptions about “at-risk” groups. Although childless participants were perceived to be unsupported, many of them had a lifetime of self-support or an intentionally developed  “web of contacts” that satisfied them just fine.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.