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The Family in Care for the Elderly: Managing the Overload and Coping with Difficulties

Introduction: Family is considered the main support of the elderly in a situation of dependency. Caregiving often results in overloading, leading to diverse problems. Aim: To evaluate the self-perception of the family caregiver’s overload and the strategies used to provide informal care to the dependent elderly considering their level of dependence. Method: The sample consisted of 21 children, 16 spouses, and nine other relatives of elderly dependents who responded to the Caregiver’s Overload Scale (Sequeira, 2007), the Portuguese version of Caregivers’ Assessment Management Index (CAMI, Nolan, Keady, & Grant, 1995) and the Barthel Index (Mahoney & Barthel, 1965). Results: The Barthel Index showed 34.8% of the elderly as severely dependent and 37.0% as totally dependent. The care most provided respected to medication, hygiene, food, and monitoring. Above 56.5% of the caregivers had an intense overload, both at the objective (impact of care and interpersonal relationship) and subjective (F3-Expectations regarding care and F4-Perceived self-efficacy) levels. The main reason for maintaining caregivers was family/personal obligation (95.7%). Caregivers reasonably assessed the effectiveness of their strategies in dealing with their dependent elderly (CAMI M = 101.0, SD = 15.0). There was a negative relationship between the perception of the caregiver’s overload and the age and health status of the elderly, as well as between the number of strategies used by the caregiver to overcome difficulties and the self-perception of the overload. Conclusion: The multiplicity of daily tasks performed in support of a family member in a situation of severe dependence translates into situations of intense overload, negatively impacting on care, interpersonal relationship, expectations regarding caring, and perception of self-efficacy of care.

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