Surviving the transition from active to post-caregiving: the experiences of former carers

Cavaye, Joyce (2016). Surviving the transition from active to post-caregiving: the experiences of former carers. In: Healthy lives: technologies, policies and experiences; European Society for Health and Medical Sociology, 16th Biennal Congress, 27-29 Jun 2016, Geneva.


This paper focuses on the experiences of former carers; individuals who were previously unpaid informal carers actively providing care for a relative, but for whom caregiving has now come to an end.

The carer population in the UK is constantly changing. Current estimates put the number in the UK at 6.5 million, of which 30% to 40% unpaid carers take on a caring role each year, while for approximately 2 million their role comes to an end (Carers UK, 2015). These figures illustrate the dynamic nature of informal caregiving and suggest that the population of former carers is increasing in size. Yet, this is a group that is almost completely overlooked by policy and practice, which tends to focus on providing support to those who are currently providing care.

Drawing on data from an online survey, this paper presents former carers’ perspectives on negotiating the transition from active caregiving to post-caregiving. Participants were drawn from across the UK, were self-selected and had been former carers for between one and ten years. Variables reflecting the characteristics of care recipients, duration of caregiving, carers’ wellbeing, employment status and sources of support were explored.

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 the level of support that is received but can be an isolating experience underpinned by a legacy of poor health and wellbeing.

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