Last updated June 10, 2015
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Caregiving and Care Sharing

A Life Course Perspective

Recent decades have brought significant changes in family form and function, as well as new service delivery models that promote health and well-being for people with various disabilities within their own homes and communities. Nevertheless, providing care to family members continues to be part of family life across the life course. This text discusses select caregiving situations that illustrate traditional models and emerging social work practice trends. These models may be used in a wider array of caregiving situations than is presented here.

This book was inspired by evolving caregiving theoretical approaches. For example, caregiving has usually been thought of as a family matter, often involving the care recipient and one primary caregiver. This text suggests a different point of view proposed by Daatland, a Swedish scientist who studied the life course and social welfare services for older adults. Daatland (1983) suggested that “caregiving be seen as a form of social organization that includes the interpersonal relationships and the division of practical tasks: a truly collective action, depending upon direct and indirect contributions from a number of actors, including the cared for himself ” (p. 1). That is, all activities of family and friends, state programs, and services should come together to form a coherent whole. Daatland also extended the caregiving concept to include the idea of social care, a network of formal and informal services that support care provision.

The term “social care” takes social workers back to their roots, when we were part of the fabric of the social welfare system, taking action to ensure that people’s basic needs were met. Practitioners worked closely with the client and client system to improve social functioning. This was a collective action—whether formal or informal—encompassing complex social relationships. This broad definition included practice methods as well as policy and programs to improve the well-being of people at risk and in need of care.

Still another influence was Stanley’s (2007) work on risk management in New Zealand’s child welfare system. Using a narrative perspective, Stanley described the social worker’s role as facilitating discourse among families, practitioners, and policymakers in order to reach an understanding of the level of risk for children and who is chosen to give care. Care sharing is another concept that gave rise to the approach taken in this book. Care sharing was coined by Covan (1998) to describe a type of care collective, a communal effort that organizes a combination of strategies to maximize pleasure and minimize losses that might otherwise be associated with the aging process.

This book aims to provide a fuller context for caregiving practice situations, “continuously discovering, appraising, and attending to changing locales, populations, scientific and technological developments, and emerging societal trends to provide relevant services” (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2008, p. 6). Because of rapidly emerging caregiving innovations, such as those prompted by the Affordable Care Act, readers are encouraged to seek out new care strategies as they become available.