Who cares? : making elder carers visible : eleven women talk about the implications of the caregiving role : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Social Work, Massey University
This research was prompted by my personal experience of dealing with elder carers as a social worker and seeing formal resources available to this group diminishing. Eleven women caring for elderly relatives were interviewed. The aim of the research was to discover how they came to be in the elder care role, and to explore the impact of this role on their lifestyles. Any change in the relationships between the person cared for and themselves, and the wider relationships of friends and family, since care began, was also investigated. A constant theme throughout the study was the issue of elder care being unrecognised and unpaid. Feminist theory was used to inform the thesis; qualitative feminist method was used in the research. The main method used in the study was the formal interview and intial direction in the interviews was based on a semi-structured questionnaire. The interviewees, however, soon took control of what information was provided and what they thought was important. Time use diaries covering a twenty four hour period were used to record the activities of the respondents. This allowed analysis of the unpaid work by the carers. One of the goals of the thesis was to provide an opportunity for the carers to be heard by social workers and policy makers. The implications for social work were discussed as a result of the professional issues highlighted during this study. Time was spent with carers identifying formal and informal services. They were given an opportunity to verbalise their areas of need which can be presented to policy makers. Issues presented by the carers included feelings of isolation from friends and family, lack of formal recognition of the work they do and the expectation of women to fulfill an elder care role by family and society. The challenge to me personally and professionally was to gain an understanding of the womens stories and to present them in a meaningful way which highlights the experiences and needs of elder carers. Although having worked in the area for several years, some of the information given by the carers I was hearing for the first time. The common themes in their stories surrounded lack of choice in becoming carers and the subsequent isolation of the role. These were not explored through current social work methods which revolve around the organisational needs of discharging the individual back to the community as soon as possible not always working with the carers to identify the supports they need. The final section of this thesis explored some of these issues and provides social workers with an opportunity to share what I had previously not had the opportunity to hear.