Former carers: a hidden population

Watts, Jacqueline H. (2016). Former carers: a hidden population. In: Healthy lives: technologies, policies and experiences; European Society for Health and Medical Sociology, 16th Biennal Congress, 27-29 Jun 2016, Geneva, Switzerland.

Abstract

Although unpaid informal carers provide the majority of care for older, ill and disabled people in the UK, they are members of a marginalised population. Conceptualised as a ‘career’, models of caregiving encompass the identification of beginning, a discernible temporal direction and an end of caregiving. Whilst the identification of the end or post-caregiving stage is not new, it has been described as the “ignored phase of caregiving careers” with caregiving research in the last two decades tending to focus on the ‘active’ phase of caregiving. While an established body of literature from the fields of gerontology, sociology and nursing has documented the experiences and needs of informal carers, relatively little is known about the post-caregiving period and the experiences of the increasingly large group of former carers. This paper presents findings from a literature review that explored the experiences of former carers. Findings from the limited literature available suggest that former carers have unmet needs, experience the post-caregiving period as stressful and would welcome some form of continued support. It is argued that the post-caregiving period should be viewed as an integral part of the caregiving career, with recognition that former carers continue to have practical and psychological needs once caregiving comes to an end.

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