Caregiving as a rewarding experience: the perceptions of carers of older people

Cavaye, Joyce (2016). Caregiving as a rewarding experience: the perceptions of carers of older people. 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 rewards and satisfactions gained from unpaid caregiving. The literature has tended to emphasis the unremitting stressful and burdensome nature of unpaid caregiving. Because of the dominance of this discourse, the potential rewards and satisfaction derived from caregiving have been overlooked. There has however, been increasing criticism of this trend and it has been suggested that a realistic picture will not emerge until the rewarding aspects of caring have been explored in greater detail. Moreover, whilst the evidence supports the view that many carers experience caring as stressful, this does not help us to understand why so many continue and are reluctant to end their caregiving role.

Drawing on a qualitative study that explored the experiences of unpaid carers of older people, this paper presents their perspectives on the rewards and satisfaction gained from caregiving. Data was gathered through in-depth unstructured interviews and analysed according to the principles and processes of grounded theory. The iterative approach of constantly comparing data enabled the emergence and identification of common themes and core categories.

Findings suggest that caregiving is not a wholly negative experience. Unpaid carers do derive rewards and satisfaction from their caregiving role. These are related to: the nature of the personal relationship and the interaction between the carer and care recipient; the personal attributes of the carers such as their attitudes, beliefs and their general approach to life; and the outcomes or consequences of caregiving. These arise from carers’ ability to either protect the care recipient from some negatively perceived outcome or to promote positive consequences such as the development of new skills and the prevention of institutionalisation.

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