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Family caregiving or caregiving alone : who helps the helper? Sims-Gould, Joanie

Abstract

This investigation advances the understanding of family caregiving by examining the relationship between adult children caregivers and their helpers, as well as the intersections between helping, gender and kinship. Specifically, it focuses on examining "who helps whom" and extends analyses beyond the dyadic focus of caregiving in later life. The focus on helping and caregiving addresses the variety of contributions and responsibilities involving not only the ’caregiver’ who was the ’target’ respondent in this research, but also others identified as ’helpers’ in the provision of care. The data for this dissertation are derived from the Work and Eldercare Research group of CARNET: The Canadian Aging Research Network. Secondary analysis of CARNET data focuses on quantitative and verbatim data collected from 250 individuals with significant caregiving responsibilities to at least one older person. The dissertation is comprised of three scholarly papers each focusing on a dimension of helping and caregiving by adult children. Study One examines the multiple relationships and contributions involved in providing care to an older relative. The research extends Kahn & Antonucci’s convoys of social support model (1981) and Cantor’s model of social care (1991) by disentangling some of the dimensions of helping and caregiving such as the distinction between direct and assistive help. Direct help is defined as the help given by caregivers and helpers to an older person. Assistive help is the help given to a caregiver or helper. Study Two examines the characteristics and composition of helping and caregiving families with specific attention to the intersection of gender and kinship. Findings underscore the presence and coordination of direct and assistive help, the predominance of women and kin, the importance of adult siblings and the participation of men in helping and caregiving. Study Two also advances understandings of caregiving/helping as a family-level concept. Study Three through the analysis of three case vignettes explores several themes in helping. Themes include, the presence and importance of absent caregivers/helpers, the presence of multiple care recipients, the participation of men in helping/caregiving and the contributions of paid helpers. Conclusions highlight implications for professional practice, policy and research.

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