An exploration of the post-caring experiences of former carers
This thesis explores the subjective meaning of the post-caring experience for a range of former carers, and the conditions and consequences of such experiences, using a qualitative, interpretive approach. The research was based on grounded theory and, after a preparatory stage, data was gathered primarily through semi-structured in-depth interviews with thirty-seven theoretically sampled former carers. These interviews were carried out in the East Midlands between February 2000 and June 2001. Other sources of data were interviews with key informants and a research diary. Drawing on research and theoretical models within the disciplines of sociology, social policy, psychology, and politics, the thesis increases the understanding of many different aspects of former carers' lives. Examples of these are the implications of the cessation of caring, their health, the way they reconstructed their post-caring lives, and their experiences of different sources of support. The substantive theory that emerged from the analysis is developed into a theoretical representation of the post-caring experience. This highlights the extensive influence of both caring and its cessation on post-caring experiences, and introduces new concepts into the literature on post-caring life. It argues that former carers' lives are characterized by a postcaring trajectory that has three phases. These are the "post-caring void", "closing down `the caring time"' and "constructing life post-caring". The concept of the "serial carer' is also developed to provide an understanding of the cyclical experience of caring in the lives of the participants. The thesis concludes with recommendations for the enhancement of policy and practice in supporting former carers, and for further research in this area.