A day at a time : a study of unsupported family carers of older people
Informal carers provide the majority of care for older people living in the community. The provision of care can be very stressful and is said to have an adverse affect on caregivers’ health. Policy has recognised the need to support carers and a key objective has been to improve service provision for them. Research has shown that service intervention can prevent the breakdown of care and admission to long term care. However, relatively few carers and older people use formal services. While the low uptake of support services is documented, it is not fully understood. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of informal carers of older people who received no support services. It focused particularly on the question: why when caregiving is portrayed as being stressful, do carers continue without support from formal service providers? Purposive sampling was used to obtain a sample of unsupported carers of older people, who were interviewed three times over a period of two years. For this longitudinal study a predominantly qualitative approach underpinned by the principles of grounded theory was chosen with a quantitative component included in the second stage. The study used a range of methods including focus groups, interviews and self-completion questionnaires. The main source of data was individual in-depth interviews, while self-completion questionnaires and literature provided secondary and tertiary sources of data. Data were analysed according to the principles of grounded theory. The study found that carers were motivated by a strong sense of duty and a desire to maintain their independence and control over their lives and the caregiving situation. They regarded formal services as authoritarian and intrusive. Acceptance of support was associated with feelings of failure and a potential loss of control.