Um estudo correlacional entre habilidades sociais, suporte social e qualidade de vida de cuidadores familiares de idosos
Ximenes, Vanessa Santiago
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The demand for care of elderly family has increased exponentially in Brazil, while the availability of family support tends to be increasingly restricted. Thus, many caregivers of elderly people report intense difficulties in mobilizing other family members to share responsibilities for caring, and also report poorer health and lower quality of life compared to people with a similar sociodemographic profile, but who are not caregivers. Therefore, it is important to identify variables that act as buffers for adversity and that allow the caregiver to construct a more beneficial context to help his or her elderly family. Based on studies conducted with other populations, it has been shown that those with better developed social skills have more positive perceptions of social support and of quality of life. In addition, sociodemographic conditions seem to influence people’s use of social skills and the quality of the social support they receive. To plan psychosocial interventions for those who care for an elderly relative, it would be important to verify whether social skills are effective in overcoming barriers so that other family members also assume responsibilities for caring for an elderly relative. Based on these considerations and three theoretical models used to understand the wellbeing of those who care for an elderly family member, the objectives of this study were to: (a) examine the frequency of their use of social skills, and their perceptions of social support and quality of life, (b) analyze the strength of the relationship between caregivers’ social skills and their perceptions of social support and quality of life, and (c) investigate the influence of sociodemographic factors and the dependency of the care-recipient on these variables. Study participants were 70 caregivers who assisted an elderly family member, 65 of them were women, recruited in three Brazilian states, with ages ranging between 27 and 78 years. They all responded to the following instruments: Brazilian Criteria for Economic Classification, the Social Skills Inventory for Family Caregivers of the Elderly, the Scale of Perceived Social Support, Quality of Life Scale – caregiver version, the Katz Scale of Daily Living Activities, and Pfeffer’s Functional Activities Questionnaire. The caregivers’ scores on the measures of social skills, social support and quality of life were moderate to high, and the correlations among caregivers’ scores on these three measures were positive and of moderate strength. The caregivers’ educational level had a weak, positive relationship with social skills. Their age and socioeconomic level, and the care-recipients’ level of dependence did not have a significant relationship with any of the main, study variables. Given that the evidence obtained in this study supports theoreticians who propose that there is a relationship among social skills, social support and wellbeing, a next step will be to design and evaluate social skills training programs, to determine if the development and great use of this class of behaviors would help caregivers to obtain higher quality social support, lessening the burden of this responsibility, and improving their quality of life.