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Unpaid care for older people: a study of carers' time use

29th October 2015 1pm, Edinburgh Room 1/G/8, Ladywell House

Alison Bowes and Alison Dawson, University of Stirling

This study highlights fundamental changes in unpaid care for older people. These include changes in supply of care; family structures; competing demands on carers; changing tasks and attitudes; educational changes; migration patterns; work; and housing wealth. The study aims, in this dynamic context, to develop better understanding of what unpaid carers are doing, and how their work is changing. Existing research tends not to provide systematic exploration of and effective tools for examining carers' tasks, how they use their time and how this could be captured in large scale survey research. Large surveys tend to use structured questions about caring, which contain many assumptions about carers, and may not therefore be collecting data which can usefully inform contemporary policy. The project is developing a time use diary methodology which aims to collect extensive, detailed data about the range and frequency of unpaid care tasks, which will be used to develop a fuller understanding, and ultimately to inform more effective questioning in large scale surveys. The paper reports on the first phase of the study, involving analysis of 60 interviews conducted with people who 'support and care for' older people. This phase aimed to develop a fresh, qualitative understanding of unpaid carers' time use, with an emphasis on their own perspectives on what they count as 'support and care' for older people; what tasks take up more or less time; and how they manage their time. This qualitative analysis informs the design of the time use data collection phase of the study.