Changing eye of the beholder : Perceived changes in social support following a move into residential care.
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Background: Increasing numbers of older people are requiring residential care and there are high levels of depression in such settings. Existing literature suggests that social support can help maintain psychological wellbeing. This study aimed to examine perceived changes in social support following a move into residential care. The key theories drawn upon were socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen et al., 1999) and the convoy model (Kahn & Antonucci, 1980). Method: Forty care home residents were interviewed using a structured interview. A hierarchical network mapping technique was used to measure perceptions of total network, inner network and peripheral network size. Functional support from a key significant other was measured using the Significant Others Scale. Contact with network members, depression and demographic information were also examined. Retrospective ratings were obtained by asking participants to think back to before they moved into care. Current and retrospective ratings on all measures were compared using Wilcoxon signed rank tests. Results: Total network size was perceived to have decreased following a move into residential care. There was no significant difference between current and retrospective ratings of inner network size. Peripheral network size decreased but this difference was not statistically significant. There was no perceived change in emotional and practical social support received from a key significant other following the move. Discussion: The results suggest that an individual‟s social network is compacted following a move into care but that membership of the inner network remains stable. These findings are discussed in terms of socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen et al., 1999) and the convoy model (Kahn & Antonucci, 1980). Strengths and weaknesses of the study are discussed and clinical implications of the findings explored.