Home and Community Care Digest
Method: To identify the greatest possible range of 'styles' of non-kin care-giving relationships, 114 caregivers and care-recipients were recruited from the community through a variety of organizations. The sample intentionally included caregivers of all ages, although individuals who could not be interviewed in English were excluded. Face-to-face, semi structured interviews were used to investigate the dimensions and qualities of non-kin relationships. Study participants were interviewed on recruitment (T1) and 12 months later (T2). Areas covered by the investigation were: a) the socio-demographics of participants; b) the 'natural history' of the relationships (i.e. the origins, trajectory, and change over time); c) the kinds of activities engaged in and tasks undertaken; and d) the experience of the relationship from each participant's perspective.
Findings: A fine distinction between everyday neighbourliness and informal care-giving was very evident. Most individuals interviewed initially felt they did not fall into the caregiver category on the basis of their friendship with the older individual. The typical caregiver was female, had an annual income of $25,000, and was more educated than average. Older men were often cared for by younger women. Non-kin associations held many routes of initiation. Aside from introductions through neighbours, friends or family, an important mechanism for establishing these relationships were through ordinary activities and chance encounters. Most caregiving arrangements did not arise between complete strangers and were shortto modest in duration. The most common reasons given as motivation by caregivers were: a) providing care; b) seeing an otherwise unfilled need; and c) religious belief. Only 40% of elderly care recipients in the study had living kin, such as offspring, spouses, siblings or distant kin such as cousins, nieces, and so forth. When kin did exist, for the majority of care recipients (70%) family members were also active in providing care. Generally, the types of care that family and non-kin provided did not overlap but, rather, were complementary.
Conclusions: The interface between formal services, family and non- kin caregivers is poorly understood. Policy makers looking to facilitate the ability for older individuals to 'age in place' should focus attention on the diverse range of activities carried out by non-kin caregivers, and in promoting this area of supportive services to the elderly.
Reference: Barker, Judith C., Neighbors, Friends, and Other Non-kin Caregivers Of Community-Living Dependent Elders. Journals of Gerontology Series B - Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 2002: 57(5):S158-S168
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