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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Care conundrum : experiences of younger adult eldercare providers Treleaven, Christina


Caring is complex—often framed in love, sometimes mired with obligation, guilt, stress and anxiety. Informal care is rarely a simple addition to one’s life but rather it represents a re-thinking of relationships, a re-evaluation of priorities and career direction, and an emotional journey as carers navigate issues of autonomy and independence when supporting their parents and older family members. In this integrated-article dissertation, I combine qualitative and quantitative methods to consider the broader experience of younger adult informal eldercare providers. In Chapter 2, I examine how informal eldercare providers conceptualize care and caregiving. Findings suggest that participants define care in two key ways: as assistance or activities driven by necessity, or as physical care. In Chapter 3, I examine the work/family conflict that arises for younger adult eldercare providers, and the associated reductions in work hours or limits to career advancement by turning down or choosing not to apply for promotions. My findings demonstrate that these individuals are indeed making career choices in relation to care, and that women in particular are shaping their career trajectories around their eldercare responsibilities—with the potential for long term career effects. In Chapter 4, I use theories of mental labour to analyze the experiences of informal eldercare providers in the COVID-19 pandemic. My findings highlight the salience of mental labour as an important form of eldercare, as exemplified by worries about transmission risk, the consequences of isolation, and navigating access to needed medical services during periods of lockdown or reduced interaction. My dissertation offers a glimpse into the insights and experiences of younger adult eldercare providers. I reflect the stories, experiences, and implications of informal care, conscientiously examining the relational nature of care provision. In doing so, my aim is to encourage scholars to think differently about eldercare—to expand our conception of care beyond task or time-based approaches, to consider the path-based nature of care penalties, and to acknowledge new care strategies and behaviours emerging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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