Informal caregivers of dependent elderly persons are currently increasing in number in Belgium. Because of the physical or mental burden induced by their role, they are vulnerable. Nine informal caregivers with varied profiles were questioned using semi-structured individual interviews, which were aimed to better understand their experiences and clarify the place that the general practitioner could assume in this environment. Analysis of the testimonies clearly reveals a physical and psychological interdependence between both the caregiver and elderly person, which may at the origin of numerous disagreements within the dyad, along with the lack of a centralized referral system of professional helpers. The general practitioner, who is in the first-line of care, could play a key role in the early identification of the caregiver’s suffering, provided he relies on a proactive approach. The general practitioner could also centralize the available help, while always informing both the caregiver and elderly person.
What is already known about the topic?
Informal caregivers of dependent elderly people constitute a vulnerable group. The general practitioner may be in the position to detect any need for help in this area, but it seems that he would rather limit his role to his purely medical tasks.
What does this article bring up for us?
The purpose of this article is to investigate the experience of an informal caregiver of an elderly person with a loss of autonomy, in order to better clarify the role that the general practitioner could assume within such environment.
Caregiver, elderly, dependence, exhaustion, support, informal, general practitioner