Tara Anglim

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership for Diverse Learning Communities




School of Education and Human Services


As the United States' aging population rapidly grows, the prevalence of adults with chronic illness or disabilities who require intermittent or long-term caregiving from family members also increases. Despite the prevalence of caregiving, the role of the family caregiver is a label that lacks a clear description, definition, or societal understanding. The inability to identify family caregivers creates negative ramifications, including diminished recognition and support throughout the healthcare continuum. Drawing from caregiver identity theory, this qualitative phenomenological study aimed to describe the experiences of family caregivers to promote a deeper understanding of how they became aware of their caregiver identity and role in the healthcare system. The data included semi-structured interviews with a diverse group of 12 family caregivers currently caring for parents, grandparents, siblings and significant others over the age of 65. As suggested in the caregiver identity theory, the findings in this study confirmed that identity as a family caregiver is a complex change process. Additionally, this study found that awareness and acceptance of one's family caregiver role/identity are not synonymous, but are shaped/influenced by previous experiences within their family or work life, cultural norms, prior relationships with their loved one, and the external labeling process. These findings indicate that identifying as a caregiver is not always a simple or automatic process of acknowledging that what they are doing is family caregiving, with some participants actively rejecting or feeling ambivalent about the caregiver label. Implications of this research supports the need for education for healthcare professionals, patients and family caregivers to ensure caregivers are routinely identified throughout the healthcare continuum, and their needs are assessed and supported as a standard of practice in delivering family-centered healthcare

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