From International Professional To Caregiver In Rural America

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:20 PM
Room: 413
Distributed Paper
Shirley NUSS , Nuss & Asssociates, Fort Morgan, CO
In 2002 my father asked me to care of my mother as he was going blind. This meant I give up professional activities for specialized UN agencies and become a full-time caregiver. Within two weeks, I moved from an Asian city of 13 million to a rural community with 8,000 residents. As I traveled from east to west, I entered a community where I never lived and where I knew no one. A new socio-culture came into view as I saw road signs cautioning drivers about a United Nations take-over of the country. My new responsibilities would be complicated by this environment. In order to care for my parents, I would be forced to employ my sociological imagination while also drawing on all skills I learned while working, living and traveling alone in more than fifty countries.

This paper uses participant-observation as its methodology and, thereby, draws on extensive notes documenting this transition from international professional to caregiver. It discusses methods used to organize support and outreach beginning with the few adult children who also became caregivers for elderly parents. As medical responsibilities were reduced due to better nutrition leading to improved health, I used the internet for overcoming obstacles to quality care as well as to address legal remedies for limiting their financial exploitation in this rural community.

Some of my findings may be shocking, but most surprising is the revelation that the elderly are not dependent in this rural community; to the contrary, they form the hub of economic activity and income for a wide range of entrepreneurs. The paper concludes with recommendations for caregivers and policy-makers that take account of the elderly as increasingly forming this emerging economic hub of rural areas, rather than viewing them as economically dependent.