Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 355–369 | Cite as

American Indian Family Caregivers’ Experiences with Helping Elders

  • Lori L. Jervis
  • Mathew E. Boland
  • Alexandra Fickenscher
Original Article


In recent years, a vast literature has accumulated on the negative effects on family caregivers of providing care to elders, while relatively little research has explored caregiving as a positive experience. Only a handful of studies have examined any aspect of informal caregiving among American Indians. This mixed methods study explores the negative and positive aspects of providing elder care among 19 northern plains American Indian family members. These caregivers described low levels of burden and high levels of reward, attributable to cultural attitudes toward elders and caregiving, collective care provision, strong reciprocal relationships with elders, enjoyment of elders, and relatively low levels of care provision. Caregiving manifested as part of a complex exchange of assistance rather than a unidirectional provision of assistance from the family member to the elder. That caregiving emerged as such an overwhelmingly positive experience in a community faced with poverty, alcohol disorders, trauma, and cultural traumatization is testimony to the important roles that elders often continue to play in these communities.


American Indian Caregiving Elders Family Positive valuation of elders Caregiving reward 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lori L. Jervis
    • 1
  • Mathew E. Boland
    • 2
  • Alexandra Fickenscher
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Center for Applied Social ResearchUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Nevada—RenoRenoUSA
  3. 3.Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native HealthUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

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