Female caregivers' perspectives and plans for their own aging
Pope, Natalie Durrance
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In the coming decades, millions of older adults will be living with chronic, life-threatening diseases that require ongoing care, also referred to as long-term care. Consequently, planning ahead for long-term care needs is crucial to health and well-being in later life. Women are at high risk for needing long-term care as they age, and women in midlife represent the majority of unpaid caregivers to older adults. Previous research has identified structural and individual barriers to planning for later life yet little is known about how caregiving for a parent influences one’s perspectives and plans for later life. The purpose of this study was to understand how providing care for aging parents shapes informal female caregivers’ beliefs about and desires for their own aging. The following research questions guided this study: (a) how did the participants come to be caregivers? (b) how does being a caregiver affect their perspectives and subsequent decision making about their own late life (c) what desires and plans do caregivers have for their own aging? This qualitative study utilized an interpretive design and included in-depth interviews with 15 participants who were selected using criterion sampling. The sample included female caregivers between the ages of 50 and 65 who self-identified as the primary caregiver to a parent or parent-in-law with an illness and disability. Interview transcripts were analyzed individually and then collectively using open and focused coding, constant comparison, and memo-writing. First, analysis revealed that assistance provided to parents was initiated by one or more triggering event, after which participants became caregivers in either an emergent or deliberate manner. Second, caregiving for a parent influenced daughters in five ways including making them aware of aging and provoking age-related fears. Lastly, caregivers’ plans for later life related to finances, living arrangements, health, and social network. Caregivers also discussed preference for long-term care and these preferences concerned where they would prefer to receive care, who they would want to give care, and the desired traits of the care provider. Implications based on these findings were presented and future research recommendations were made.