Abstract: "I Know Where to Go for Help": Examining Support Groups and the Reduction of Social Isolation in the Vietnamese Caregiving Comminity (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

299P "I Know Where to Go for Help": Examining Support Groups and the Reduction of Social Isolation in the Vietnamese Caregiving Comminity

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Natalie Wussler, BSW, Student, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN
Michelle Zaragoza, MSW, Student, California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA
Hannah Nguyen, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA
Jung-Ah Lee, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA
Background: Caregiving responsibilities within Vietnamese families usually fall on children, spouses, and siblings – rooted in the highly regarded value of filial piety that honors duties of caregiving for one’s elders and family. Caregiving can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnectedness between the caregivers and their family, friends, and community, thus contributing to potential mental health concerns for the caregivers over time. While research has shown that social support can help minimize loneliness and improve social efficacy for caregivers, very little is known about social support and caregiving in the Vietnamese American community, the fourth largest Asian American subgroup. This study aims to understand the role of social support in the caregiving experiences of Vietnamese American caregivers with a loved one with dementia, drawing on the ecological perspective that contextualizes the caregivers’ experience in relation to that of other caregivers within their social support network.

Methods: Individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty Vietnamese American caregivers from southern California. Participants were ages 43 to 82, mostly female (n=17) and born in Vietnam (n=19), and providing care to one or both parents (n=10) or a spouse (n=9) living with dementia. Interviews were conducted in Vietnamese and elicited the caregivers’ perspectives on caregiving and utilization of social support. A team of bilingual research assistants conducted the interviews in Vietnamese and simultaneously transcribed and translated the interview audios into English. A team of three coders coded the data following the thematic analytic approach.

Results: Many caregivers expressed a duty to provide around-the-clock care to their loved one, and therefore, prioritized their loved one’s mental and physical well-being over their own social connections. One salient theme that emerged was the importance of social connectedness to alleviate feelings of social isolation and disconnectedness. Participants highlighted several benefits of their participation in the caregiver social support groups, specifically designated for Vietnamese Americans: (1) sharing of similar experiences; (2) gaining new and useful information; and (3) creating social relationships. Participants spoke about feeling understood, included, and no longer isolated as they sat among other caregivers who could relate to their own caregiving experiences, speak their language, and understand their culture. The bond that caregivers cultivated during these group meetings provided a sense of normalcy and community that further affirmed the dignity and dedication of the caregivers. During the sharing of experiences, caregivers also exchanged information, resources, and advice that promoted awareness and utilization of services that they never knew of, such as free transportation or healthcare planning. A lasting benefit for many participants is the formation of friendships that extend beyond the support group.

Implications: Results highlighted that social support groups designed for Vietnamese American caregivers yield tremendous benefits, such that the caregivers feel more socially connected, affirmed, and empowered by other caregivers and the wealth of information they receive. Findings could inform the development of dementia care social support groups for Vietnamese American caregivers, with attention to the inclusion of language- and culturally-specific elements that correspond to the needs of this population.