Caregiving as penalty and promise: reflections of former carers

Watts, Jacqueline H. and Cavaye, Joyce (2017). Caregiving as penalty and promise: reflections of former carers. In: Global Carework Summit, 1-3 Jun 2017, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA.


A growing proportion of the UK population are those described as ‘former carers’: these are carers who have finished ‘actively’ caring for a friend or family member. The transition to becoming a former carer occurs mainly when the cared for person dies or moves to a care home. This transition to becoming a former carer can be challenging with many former carers experiencing poor physical and mental health together with financial hardship. This article reports findings from a small-scale qualitative study about the experiences of former carers conducted in the UK. Findings highlight the impact of caregiving on the health and wellbeing of former carers with feelings of loss and distress associated with the end of caregiving a key feature. A lack of purpose experienced by former carers in the post-caregiving phase is also connected to compromised employment opportunities. Former carers are struggling to participate in the labour market, even in cases where new skills have been developed from caregiving. The need for support in the post-caregiving phase thus emerges as a significant issue with former carers feeling abandoned and lacking motivation to move forward in their lives. Findings suggest that, whilst policy and support services now recognise the needs of those in the active caregiving phase, the needs of former carers remain largely ‘invisible’.

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