Health and wellbeing in the post-caregiving period

Cavaye, Joyce (2015). Health and wellbeing in the post-caregiving period. In: 6th International Carers Conference - Care and caring: future proofing the new demographics, 03-06 Sep 2015, Gothenburg, Sweden.



This paper focuses on the experiences of former carers; individuals who were previously unpaid carers of older people but for whom caregiving has ceased. Caring has been conceptualised as a ‘career’ that is characterised by key events, one of which is the end of caregiving and the transition into the post-caregiving period. Few temporal models of care include the post-caregiving period, yet this stage is an integral part of former carers’ experiences.

Current estimates put the number of carers in the UK at 6.5 million. This population is constantly changing with 30% to 40% unpaid carers starting to provide care each year and a similar proportion stopping. These figures suggest that the population of former carers is increasing in size. Yet, this is a group that is almost completely overlooked by policy, which tends to focus on providing support to those who are currently providing care.

The literature suggests that caregiving has negative long term effects on people lives and is detrimental to their health and wellbeing; that when it ends, carers have no purpose to their lives and poor health means they are unlikely to re-enter the workplace. An alternative view is that far from leaving carers with no purpose, caregiving has enabled them to develop new skills and attributes which they can use in other contexts. In other words, the end of caregiving may offer former carers the opportunity to explore new horizons and opportunities.

Drawing on data from a mixed methods study, the paper explores the transition made by former carers’ and their perspectives on personal wellbeing. Data analysis was guided by the principles of ground theory. The iterative approach of constantly comparing data enabled the emergence and identification of common themes and core categories.

Findings suggest that former carers find it difficult to negotiate the transition into the post-caring period. They struggle with the psychological and emotional aspects of transition. Adaptation to a non-caregiving life is shaped by age and for older people in particular, can be a lengthy isolating experience underpinned by a legacy of poor health and wellbeing.

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