Respite Tourism for Family Caregivers

Respite Tourism for Family Caregivers

Robert Holda
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7122-3.ch013
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One of the most misunderstood and unappreciated segments of society in relation to medical tourism is the family caregiver; those caring for a loved one who sacrifice their own employment schedule, their personal time for relaxing and recreation, and often and importantly their own health. The purpose of this chapter is to raise awareness of the plight of family caregivers as an issue for medical tourism, the effects of stress and burnout, and the essential need for respite of body, mind, and spirit for these central assistants in the matter of healthcare for patients. Though healthcare and its subset, medical tourism, are frequently perceived as focused on a “patient”, they also encompass many other individuals and organizations. As addressed here, the focus is on the family member caring for a loved one. The intent is to link the concept of medical tourism as an avenue for relaxation and respite to enhance the wellness of this specific target market.
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As has been outlined elsewhere in this book, medical tourism is a rapidly growing field of medicine and of tourism that makes use of the differential prices of treatment in different countries as a primary motivation for travel, but this travel often is carried out within the wider context of personal health and wellness. Along with the range of services on the medical side, such as chronic conditions related to joints, life-threatening conditions related to vital organs, which if left untreated can soon prove fatal, and cosmetic surgery, there are interventions incorporating a range of wellness therapies involving massage, aroma, diet, and hot or cold water treatments which may have little medical effect at all, but which undoubtedly make some clients feel good, at least temporarily (Erfurt-Cooper & Cooper, 2009).

Health and wellness may thus be seen as a framework or background to the practice of medical tourism. Here, the medical treatment itself may be packaged along with more conventional tourism attractions, such as hotels, scenic attractions, climate, regional cuisine, recreational activities, or local culture (Connell, 2013). Any such combination of course depends on the medical condition of the traveler; at one end are cases in which the raison d’être for the travel may be almost entirely medical. For example, heart transplant or hip replacement patients are unlikely to be able exercise very often during his or her treatment. At the other end, a tourist client in search of massage, yoga, aromatherapy, hot spring or mud bath beauty treatments might well value these kinds of amenities much more, and make more regular use of them. In other words, the clientele for medical tourism might range from the completely healthy on the one hand to the terminally ill on the other. This helps to explain the extraordinary number of products now available in the medical tourism sector, and the large number of countries that appear to be interested in jumping onto this bandwagon (Chapter 3, this volume).

But there is another aspect to this framework for some medical tourists. And this is the situation where the medical patient travels with a support person(s), or care-giver. This is in turn part of the need for an expanding supply of adjunct facilities in a situation of insufficiently researched demand for such facilities. The care giver acts as an additional resource for the medical system, if that system chooses to use this resource. This situation impacts on the quality dimension of medical services, which has increasingly become the decisive competitive factor in the medical tourism market, as well as on the level of health and wellness of the patient themselves (Casey, Crooks, Snyder, & Turner, 2013).

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