Seeking assistance in later life: how do older people evaluate their need for assistance?

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Ageing and Society

Authors

Krysia Canvin, Catherine A. MacLeod, Gill Windle and Amanda Sacker

Publication date

Summary

Background: Legislation places an onus on local authorities to be aware of care needs in their locality and to prevent and reduce care and support needs. The existing literature overlooks ostensibly ‘healthy’ and/or non-users of specific services, non-health services and informal assistance and therefore inadequately explains what happens before or instead of individuals seeking services. We sought to address these gaps by exploring older adults’ accounts of seeking assistance in later life.
Methods: We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with 40 adults aged 68–95. We invited participants to discuss any type of support, intervention, or service provision, whether medical, social, family-provided, paid or unpaid.
Findings: This paper reports older people’s accounts of how they evaluated their need for assistance. We found that the people in our sample engaged in a recursive process, evaluating their needs on an issue-by-issue basis. Participants’ progression through this process hinged on four factors: their acknowledgement of decline; the perceived impact of decline on their usual activities and independence; their preparedness to be a recipient of assistance; and, the opportunity to assert their need. In lieu of seeking assistance, participants engaged in self-management, but also received unsolicited or emergency assistance.
Conclusions: Older people’s adaptations to change and attempts to meet their needs without assistance mean that they do not present to services, limiting the local authority’s knowledge of their needs and ability to plan appropriate services. Our findings offer four stages for policymakers, service providers and carers to target to address the uptake of assistance.

Volume and page numbers

47, 466-473

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afx189

Subjects

Older People, Area Effects, Social Networks, Geography, Well Being, Health, Social Policy and Caregiving

Notes

Open Access; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.; © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society