Support Network Connectedness in the Lives of Community Dwelling Rural Elders and Their Families

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Marriage and Family Review






Rural elders face challenges when accessing assistance from family, neighbors, and paid helpers. This support is essential to allow them to remain community dwelling as they develop physical challenges that limit their ability to care for themselves. This qualitative study followed a group of 16 rural elders with physical limitations for 1 year. In-depth interviews were conducted with them and eight members of their support networks, including five family members, to explore how rural older adults create and maintain support networks that allow them to remain community dwelling despite physical challenges that limit their self-care. The research question is, “How do members of the support network connect with each other to maximize the effectiveness of the network?” Family members coordinated assistance to maximize the abilities and availability of various network members. In addition, family members worked together with other family members, neighbors, and paid helpers to assist the elder. These strategies enhanced the ability of the network to assist the rural elder and also lessened the burden of care by dispersing it among network members.