Caregiving as a Life Transition: Implications for Leisure Service Providers
Keywords:caregiving, caregiver, life transitions, leisure, health, quality of life
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: For the most part, people who care for loved ones remain hidden from view because to this point, caregiving has not been identified as a life stage, even though it is estimated that 23% of adults in the United States serve as unpaid family caregivers (Coughlin, 2010). This number will only increase as the baby boomer population continues to age and live longer lives. Recent predictions suggest that by 2030, 65% of our society will be over 65 years of age. Although people are living longer, they are not necessarily healthy, thus requiring help to negotiate their daily activities. Current research shows that caregiving responsibilities contribute greatly to a multitude of mental and physical health problems caregivers are likely to experience in comparison to non-caregivers (AoA, 2009; MetLife, 2011; American Psychological Association [APA], 2011). Studies also show that family caregivers identify loss of leisure as a major concern in most of their lives. Unfortunately, recreation programs targeted specifically at caregivers are not only rare, they are almost nonexistent. In addition to common barriers to leisure (lack of time, money, and energy), caregivers’ lives are further complicated by their tendency to not self identify coupled with feelings of guilt for spending time in leisure, especially if their care-recipient cannot. These unique circumstances make it even more difficult to elicit participation in leisure activities, even if programs are provided. The purpose of this article is to present caregiving as a life transition and illustrate the leisure needs of family caregivers with regard to health and quality of life. In addition, this article will provide strategies for the design and delivery of leisure programs/services in the community that can address these unique and challenging needs. More specifically, we will present suggestions for successful partnerships among all segments of recreation service provision, community agencies, and public policy-makers. By analyzing the current research on caregiver leisure, well-being, and demographics, we can better understand the needs of this unrecognized population. With this understanding comes the realization that our mission of inclusion of underserved groups will not be complete until programs and services designed specifically for caregivers are further adopted and implemented into our communities.
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