Vigilance: Evolution and Definition for Caregivers of Family Members with Alzheimer's Disease

  • Mahoney D
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The language of caregiving relies heavily on terms that are frequently negative such as caregiver stress and burden, but these are not universally accepted phenomenon. The purpose of this article is to report on the development of caregiver vigilance and to suggest it offers both neutral terminology and a means to include caregivers' perceptions of their supervisory role. The concept of vigilance emerged from a qualitative study of caregivers of family members with Alzheimer's disease. Vigilance is defined as the caregivers' continual oversight of their care recipients' activities. The five key components of vigilance were watchful supervision, protective intervening, anticipating, always on duty, and being there. Vigilant caregivers saw themselves as "on duty" even when they were not "doing things." The findings of this study support caregivers' perceptions of 24-hour-a-day responsibility. Nurses need to realize that caregiver vigilance is not necessarily diminished when professional caregivers intervene or institutionalization occurs. Debriefing caregivers about their unique family caregiving knowledge and incorporating it into caregiving is a key strategy for nurses to use to build caregiver trust and reduce their vigilance time.

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  • Diane Feeney Mahoney

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