Families in Crisis: A Case Study of Elder Caregivers

Professor Nanette J. Davis,
Anne Conroy Cutter Mikkelsen
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This paper presents an intensive analysis of 51 Northwest Washington State (USA) elder care providers and their stories of choice, challenge and wisdom as they care for their aged and chronically ill spouses, parents and loved ones. Caregivers largely lack the experience, knowledge and time to provide the level of care demanded of them. Additionally, they face inadequate financial, social and emotional resources for coping with the extended care of their chronically ill loved ones. The result? Caregivers succumb to depression, illness, financial upheaval and even death long before their work is done. Through their stories, we capture the fundamental imbalances of a society that ignores the needs of the ill elderly and those who care for them. As the number of persons living in their 80s, 90s and beyond continues to grow in the U.S. and abroad, so, too, does the need to revamp ill-conceived social policies that fail to address the needs of both the frail elderly and their caregivers.

The stories of the caregivers will be analyzed in four distinct areas: (1) Dimensions of the caregiving role; (2) loss of self for the caregiver; (3) medical demoralization of the caregiver; and (4) reconstruction of self. A final section will explore the transformation to a humanistic politics of care that clearly addresses specific issues raised by the plight of these overburdened and largely unskilled – although life-affirming – caregivers.

Keywords: Frail Elderly, Caregivers, Policy Making, Interviews, Chronically Ill
Stream: Sexuality, Gender, Families
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Families in Crisis

Professor Nanette J. Davis

Visiting Professor, Department of Sociology, Western Washington University

More than three decades experience as a teacher, author, editor and researcher. An authoritative source on issues relating to women, families and youth, and sociological aspects of sexuality. Scholarly work includes eight books and more than 100 articles, encyclopedia entries, research reports, book chapters and reviews. Dedicated to community service. Recipient of multiple grants for studies on youth, homelessness, women, domestic violence and curriculum development. Federal, state and local agency consultant. Among her honors and appointments: Invited Participant, Gender and Society Oxford Round Table, Pembroke College, Oxford University, 2003; Invited Participant, Second World Congress on Family Law and the Rights of Children and Youth, 1997; Awards Committee, American Society of Criminology, 1996-1997; Fulbright Senior Scholar Award for Australia, 1992; Fulbright Discipline Evaluation Commission Member, 3-year term, 1994–1996; Honorary Member, Feminist Institute for Studies on Law and Society, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, 1991.

Anne Conroy Cutter Mikkelsen

Executive Director, The Northfield Union of Youth

Ref: H05P0223