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The impact of a telephone contact program on physical and psychological functioning : level of pain and perceived social support among elderly females with arthritis Taylor, Gregory


Having identified the need to provide services to elderly, homebound people with arthritis, the Social Work Department at the Vancouver Arthritis Centre initiated an Arthritis Telephone Contact Program in Autumn, 1989. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether or not a weekly telephone call from volunteers would impact positively on subjects' physical and psychological functioning, level of pain and perceived level of social support. The 11 subjects in this study were elderly, Caucasian women identified by health care professionals as being socially isolated due, in part, to the limits placed on them by either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. The one-group pretest-posttest research design was employed for this study. Quantitative measures used were the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales (AIMS) and the Perceived Social Support From Friends and From Family Scale (PSS-Fr & Fa). Interviews of subjects were conducted in order to describe the efficacy of the Telephone Contact Program from more than one perspective. Over 16 weeks, paired t-test found that the physical functioning of subjects had improved significantly. It was noted that there was a trend towards improved health status for the experimental group in that seven out of the eight subscales of AIMS measured improvement, while one subscale showed no change. Contrary to prediction, perception of social support from family members decreased significantly, as measured by the PSS-Fa scale. Pearson correlation coefficients found no association between changes in perception of social support and changes in health status. Interview data suggests that callers were perceived as sources of social support. Specifically, callers seemed to provide participants with emotional support, informational support, and positive social interaction. Overall, the data suggested that the Telephone Contact Program had the capability to evoke small, but clinically meaningfully improvements in the health status of elderly women with arthritis. Further investigation into the use of telephone contact programs as a minimal intervention is advised.

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