Choice: the missing dimension in becoming a carer

Cavaye, Joyce (2010). Choice: the missing dimension in becoming a carer. In: 39th Annual British Society of Gerontology Conference: Identities, Care and Everyday Life, 6-8 Jul 2010, Brunel University, London.



Informal carers of older people are the mainstay of care policy, yet the actual processes involved in becoming a carer are unclear. Policy is underpinned by assumptions that carers’ have the right to choose whether or not to provide care. In reality, choices available are restricted and earlier literature suggests this is a consequence of strong notions of duty, obligation to take on a caring role (Twigg and Atkin, 1994). This paper explores how individuals become informal carers and the extent to which they are able to exercise choice. The paper draws on a qualitative study of informal carers of older people. Using a grounded theory methodology data was gathered by means of in-depth unstructured interviews with 26 primary carers. The research identifies two pathways into caring, the positive and the default, which are characterised by either the presence or absence of choice. The choices available to individuals are determined by the nature of pre-existing relationships, living arrangements and geographical location. The paper argues that despite changes to policy and practice, carers are unable to fully exercise informed choice.

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