• Availability of social support resources and survival strategies among African American grandmother caregivers

      Simpson, Gaynell Marie Salina; Cornelius, Llewellyn Joseph, 1959- (2002)
      While the literature has explored the positive relationship between social supports, coping and mental health well-being, there has been minimal exploration of this relationship among African American grandmother caregivers. The purpose of this qualitative field study was to describe available resources (social supports and coping) used by grandmother caregivers and to explore how their use of social supports and coping related to caregiver well being. This study was guided by a Womanist Perspective to explore social supports, coping and caregiver well-being. The aim was not to compare African American grandmother caregivers to the dominant group but to gain an understanding of African American grandmother caregivers from their own cultural framework, which encompassed issues related to racism, sexism and classism. Data were collected through 14 semi-structured interviews gathered from seven participants. The constant comparative method was employed to build working hypotheses that became the 'grounded theory.' Findings revealed that grandmother caregivers experienced significant losses in their informal social support network, which were experienced as a drain or depletion on their informal social support resources. These losses represented social conditions (e.g. drug abuse, incarceration and poverty) which affected the type and degree of support remaining in their informal social support networks. Despite the depletion in resources, grandmother caregivers had at least one person they could rely upon in times of need. Grandmother caregivers' coping strategies were primarily influenced by the availability of supportive resources remaining in their informal and formal social support structures. In the context of their social support structures, grandmother caregivers employed the necessary adaptive strategies to meet their caregiving role expectations. Implications of these findings are significant for direct practice (micro and macro), research and social policy. Direct micro practice suggests that a strengths-based, case-management approach, which includes culturally competent clinical tools and is built upon an interdisciplinary and empowerment approach, is essential to providing services to African American grandmother caregivers. On the macro level, social workers need to politically advocate with regards to the impact of social and economic conditions on African Americans' traditions of relying upon their extended kin.