The purpose of this qualitative study was to develop a comprehensive understanding of Aboriginal women's experiences and perceptions of providing care to the elderly in geographically isolated communities (GIC). Research with Aboriginal women caregivers is essential as the population of Aboriginal elders is increasing, and Aboriginal women represent the majority of caregivers in their communities.
This study was guided by focused ethnography, which seeks an understanding of a sub-group within a cultural group by uncovering the less obvious expressions and behaviours of the sub-group members. Using one-on-one open-ended interviews and participant observation, 13 women from a number of Aboriginal communities in northern and southern Ontario participated in this study. Data analysis was conducted by reviewing transcripts of interviews to identify codes and themes.
Study findings revealed that four concentric circles represent the caring experiences of the Aboriginal women participants: the healers, the family, the Aboriginal community, and the non-Aboriginal community. Cultural values greatly informed participants' perceptions about caring for elderly persons in GIC. These values are represented in five themes: passing on traditions, being chosen to care, supporting the circle of healers, (re)establishing the circles of care, and accepting/refusing external resources.
The findings from this study have significant implications for healthcare practice and future research.
Informal caregiving within rural contexts in Canada is increasing. This is due in part to a number of factors related to the restructuring of the Canadian health care system, the regionalization of services to urban locations, the increased population of people 65 years and older, and the desire of this population to age within their rural homes. Most often, the informal caregiving role is assumed by rural women. Women tend to fall into the role of informal caregiver to elders because of the many societal and gender expectations and values that are present within the rural culture. The purpose of this literature review is to identify the context in which women provide care for an elder in rural Canada. Illustrating these issues will help to uncover challenges and barriers rural women face when providing care and highlight recommendations and implications for rural women caregivers and nurses employed within rural settings.
Many rural women share similar caregiving experiences as urban informal caregivers, but rural women are faced with additional challenges in providing quality care for an elder. Rural women caregivers are faced with such issues as limited access to adequate and appropriate healthcare services, culturally incongruent health care, geographical distance from regionalized centers and health services, transportation challenges, and social/geographical isolation. In addition to these issues, many rural women are faced with the multiple role demands that attend being a wife, mother, caregiver and employee. The pile up of these factors leaves rural women caregivers susceptible to additional stresses and burn out, with limited resources on which to depend.
Through reviewing pertinent literature, appropriate implications and recommendations can be made that may assist rural women caregivers and rural nurses. Nurses working within rural communities are in ideal settings to work collaboratively in building supportive relationships with rural women in order to promote the health and wellbeing of caregivers, as well as the elders for which they provide care. More research is needed regarding rural women and their caregiving experiences of elders. In addition, rural and remote courses and practicums should be made available to nursing students in order to encourage them and to support them in nursing careers in rural settings, thereby providing rural women caregivers with additional appropriate and consistent healthcare services. Also, governments and policy makers should consider the rural context and the challenges that are associated with providing care to an elder in a rural setting to ensure that rural women caregivers and their care recipients are well supported within their rural communities.