There's been a fair bit of study on people who are addicted, but what about the people who love and care for the addicted? What's it like for them? That's what occurred to master's student Stephanie Wood as she was doing her internship at Capital District Health Authority's Addiction Prevention and Treatment Services. She recalls standing beside her supervisor as she conversed with someone - 'and I started to think, 'I wonder what his family is going through?''
And now she's starting to find out. Ms. Wood, who is doing a MA with a focus on leisure studies through the School of Health and Human Performance, is embarking on a research project to explore the leisure experiences of women who provide care to someone harmfully involved in gambling, alcohol and/or drugs. Caregivers might include mothers, daughters, close friends or partners of the addicted person.
'Leisure experiences may include going for a walk, reading a book, heading out to the gym or going out for coffee with friends - that's all leisure,' says Ms. Wood, 26, who has her BA in sociology and social anthropology from Dalhousie and a BSc in therapeutic recreation, also from Dal. 'These are things that enable them to get through stressful situations.'
She's hoping to conduct in-depth interviews with at least 15 caregivers and is currently seeking women to talk to. She's finding it a challenge.
'Women in these situations haven't yet been called 'caregivers,'' she says. 'But these are the people providing the financial and emotional support. They are giving the care and they are stressed out.'
So far, she's talked to women who compare their situation to a roller coaster: 'There are ups and downs and so much uncertainty as to what's around the next corner. Often, the chance to be by themselves, to relax and rejuvenate, is the first thing to go.'
Although many might not think of leisure as an important part of their health, Ms. Wood says it definitely helps to maintain good health. 'When people don't have leisure in their lives, they're not making those social connections, they're not being fulfilled. When people can't get the rest and relaxation they need, they can't rejuvenate and deal with basic issues.'
She's hoping her research will lead to other things; perhaps she'd look at men's caregiver experiences or investigate possible support systems for families.
Her research is supported by the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation and managed by the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation.