Informal Cares and Caregivers in Rural Elderly: Emotional Costs in Public Health Policies

Informal Cares and Caregivers in Rural Elderly: Emotional Costs in Public Health Policies

Nuria María García Perales (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain), Borja Rivero Jiménez (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain), David Conde Caballero (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain), Beatriz Muñoz González (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain) and Lorenzo Mariano Juarez (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9818-3.ch019


The aging population means that health systems rely on informal carers to meet the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of older people. In this context, it is particularly important to know the perceived quality of life of informal carers. Health studies highlight the close relationship between care work and the carer's objective health. Through a qualitative ethnographic methodology, by means of open interviews with carers from rural areas of Extremadura (Spain), this study deepens the knowledge of the emotional costs to which the figure of the informal carer is subjected. The authors approach the social-emotional dimension in places where it is not always possible for public health policies to be fully developed. In this situation, moreover, some moral characteristics of these environments take on special importance.
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The role of informal caregiver tends to be played by the closest family environment, with an eminently feminized profile1, and characterized by the fact that it involves not receiving any kind of economic remuneration for the help they offer, while they are almost always invisible to the eyes of society (Wright, 1983). The informal caregiver eventually converts her home into a scenario of continuous health care, acquiring a role that has even in many cases an important objective burden referring to the functions and / or problems to be assumed and resolved; but to which must add an unmeasurable or subjective burden that refers to the emotional and/or sentimental impact derived from the strong affective-emotional bond that habitually unites the person being cared for; and on the other hand from the consequences that derive in the personal, social or labour sphere as a result of their new role (Hervás, Cabasés, & Forcén, 2007). A scenario that in most cases ends up assuming, in the words of García-Calvete, Mateo and Maroto (2004), a high cost for their own quality of life, something that in some of its determinants is completely unknown, and all in spite of the fact that the issue has been sufficiently addressed by scientific literature since the classic work of Schulz and Beach (1999) alerted about the concern of the problem when relating informal care with an increase in the risk of mortality

Key Terms in this Chapter

Informal Caregiver: A person in the family or immediate environment who provides care and attention to a dependent person. It is not a socio-health professional or linked to a health care service.

Informal Health Settings: Spaces outside the circuit of institutional health systems, usually the family home of the dependent person or the informal caregiver, where care work takes place. They constitute an invisible network parallel to the health system.

Quality of Live: The level of perceived wellness that derives from the subjective assessment that a person makes of various areas of his or her life, including appraisals of physical, social, material, and emotional wellbeing.

Emotional Itineraries: A dynamic set of affective-emotional experiences traveled during the process of providing care.

Dependency: Limitation, to a greater or lesser extent, of a person's autonomy to carry out one or more of his or her daily activities.

Loneliness of the Caregiver: Isolation felt by the caregiver that derives from the full-time dedication to the care of dependent persons and the renunciation and disassociation from their social environment.

Emotional Health: Perceived subjective well-being about the emotional state in which both internal and contextual factors intervene. It is a structural part of the criteria for defining quality of life.

Emotional Cost: The emotional value a subject pays, in terms of suffering and discomfort, when faced with extreme or traumatic situations. It leads to a weakening of emotional health.

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