New horizons: the final transition in the career of former carers

Watts, Jacqueline H. and Cavaye, Joyce (2018). New horizons: the final transition in the career of former carers. In: 17th biennal congress of the ESHMS: Old tensions, emerging paradoxes in health: rights, knowledge, and trust, 6-8 Jun 2018, Lisbon, Portugal.


Family caregiving has been conceptualised as a career that is characterised by key stages, one of which is the end of caregiving and the transition into the post-caregiving period. This transition is an integral part of former carers’ experiences and is when interactions with service providers tend to come to an end. This transition can be challenging with former carers reporting a lack of support and loss of purpose together with poor health and financial hardship. Despite these challenges however, there are indications that with appropriate support, this transition can also offer opportunities arising from the personal growth and development experienced while a carer. Drawing on data from a small exploratory study conducted in the UK, this paper explores the transition made by former carers. 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 highlight the difficulties that former carers experience during this transition with feelings of loss, loneliness and compromised employment opportunities being key features. The need for support in the post-caregiving phase emerges as a significant issue with former carers feeling abandoned and lacking motivation to move forward in their lives. Adaptation to a non-caregiving life is shaped by age and the level of support that is received. However, some former carers found that knowledge and skills gained through caregiving, enabled them to explore new opportunities for paid and unpaid work, thus expanding their horizons. Findings suggest that former carers are potentially a valuable and under-used resource: that policy and service providers should focus on empowering former carers, facilitating their resilience and provide continuing support.

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