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The needs of informal caregivers of elderly people living at home: an integrative review

Authors


Correspondence to:

Alcione Leite Silva, Professor at the Department of Health Science, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal

E-mail: alsilva@ua.pt

Abstract

Background

Over the past years, researchers have developed studies about informal caregivers who care for the elderly living at home. Meeting these needs can help these professionals to provide more appropriate care.

Aim

To explore and define the current status of published literature related to the needs of informal caregivers who care for the elderly living at home.

Method

This study follows an integrative literature review using Whittemore and Knafl's method. Given the lack of higher-level evidence on this area of study, this method was considered to be the most appropriate to explore and define the current status of the available literature, which comes from a variety of scientific sources, and diverse methodologies. The literature research was performed using eleven electronic databases. The search was developed during the months of December 2010 and February 2011 and updated from March to April 2011. Studies written in English, Portuguese and Spanish were included. A total of 14 articles met the criteria in this review. Data were extracted from primary studies using quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods.

Results

The literature review showed a shortcoming of studies about the needs of caregivers of the elderly at home. It also identified a lack of high-quality scientific evidence in this area. From the literature available, four core themes were generated to reflect the literature: information and training, professional support, effective communication and legal and financial support.

Conclusion

This integrative review offers important insight into the needs of informal caregivers, specifically for the elderly. The inclusive nature of integrative review method enabled us to provide a good understanding of underlying issues on the needs of informal caregivers. Challenges for the future are to broaden and enhance the scope of research in this area to provide effective support to intervention projects, services and care to informal caregivers.

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