Lecture notes & text book incorporated study guide
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HLTB01H3Y: Health, Aging and the Life Cycle
Department of Health Studies
University of Toronto at Scarborough
Instructor: Anna Walsh.
Term: Summer 2010 Mondays 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Lecture Room: SW 319.
Social Support, Health, and Aging.
A&G: Chapter 11.
Social Support, Health, and Aging
x Social support is important for both mental health and physical health throughout the life
span, but it may be especially important in late life.
Characteristics of the Social Support Network
Functions of Social Support
- Three functions of social support have been identified:
o aid (instrumental help): help with ADL and IADL
o affect (emotional support): Empathy, caring, companionship
o affirmation (acknowledgment of one’s values or agreement with one’s attitudes):
membership and acceptance into a group
- On average elderly get 1-3 hours of support care a week
o 1 hour for a shower
- Difficult for them to remain independent when they have mobility limitations
- Many claim they are managing because of support from friends or relatives
Social Support Networks
- Informal support network members consist of family, friends, and neighbours – generally
the primary caregivers
- Voluntary support, not paid for by the government
- Voluntary assistance, love, respect
- Innermost circle: most stable members of group, family, close friends
- Relationships with friends
o Provide tension reduction
o More important than support from relatives - share similar histories
o Valued because they are voluntary, and quality may be higher
- Men typically have wives as their main confidants, but women have many people they
can confide in
- African American caregivers > provide higher intensity care, less likely to report care
giving difficulties, caregivers were at risk of poorer health because did not use formal
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x The quasi-formal support system includes community organizations and service workers.
x Available through organizations, places of worship
x Serve as watchdogs for older person > miss routine, get worried
x Important for elderly to retain their spiritual connections and a sense of community
x Is unpaid services, voluntary only, usually helping people with their transportation,
finding resources for them, helping people, shopping trips, doing home repairs
x Some people fall for scams
x The formal support system consists of members of professional organizations who are
hired to provide care to the individual. These can be either private or public
x Can be arranged through the government – publicly funded
x Can be arranged privately by hiring someone to assist them – pay for it themselves
x Can be expensive
x Those receiving 1-3 hours need extra help and are likely hiring other people because
they need more help
x Has a limited budget
x Personal support workers, healthcare aids > not regulated, training they receive varies
because they don’t have a college
x Can be helpful, but if no one is monitoring hat they do, you won’t know what kind of
help your elderly family member is receiving
x Difficult to lodge complaints because the elderly aren’t believed > perceived as being
confused, demented – if you complain about the care they are receiving, they will
more likely side with the homecare worker rather than the elderly
x Problem is that homecare is provided based on the biomedical model (believes
everyone is made the same, culture doesn’t mena anything, provide medical care
irriespective on language, traditions, food)
x Homecare is different than hospital care because it is provided in their own home
x Nursing home care (skilled nursing facilities):
x Very expensive, difficult to provide on an ongoing basis at home especially if
suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia
x Primary reasons for nursing home admission is lack of primary caregiver
Interface of Formal and Informal Support
x For those older people who are truly frail, both formal and informal services are
frequently needed. The formal system is designed to give instrumental and hands-on
care, whereas the informal system provides emotional support, socializing, community
continuity, and links to the formal network.
x Use of formal support has LITTLE impact on the amount of care given by the informal
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