A critical exploration of the systemic complexities impacting rural Australian spousal caregivers in later life

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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As global population ageing continues at unprecedented rates, planning for the future care needs of older adults is a growing priority. Despite significant advances in health and medicine that facilitate healthier ageing and longevity, the majority of older adults will require some level of support in their later years. The preference to age in home environments relies heavily on the availability of spousal and other informal caregivers, with the vast majority of care both in Australia and around the world being provided by the partners, children, family, friends and neighbours of older adults (Productivity Commission, 2011). While research has previously demonstrated significant risks to co-resident spousal caregivers, there has been little consideration of the unique and often long standing nature of marital relationships as the context of care. Caregivers have also received little consideration in the extensive reform of Australia’s aged care system within recent decades.
This thesis set out to explore how social, policy and practice systems interact with and impact on the provision of spousal care in later life. In order to analyse these multiple systems of care, a methodological framework based on systems theory was designed and implemented. Conceptually underpinned by critical social gerontology, this approach utilised multiple qualitative methods of critical discourse analysis, focus groups and in-depth interviews to analyse social policy, health care practitioners and spousal caregivers. This thesis empirically demonstrates challenges experienced by practitioners attempting to enact individualised policies within the context of familial social norms. This has important implications for the translation of policy into practice and highlights the need for greater critical reflection and supervision of direct care staff. Finally, this research contributes the first in-depth insight into the impact of wider sociocultural and systemic influences on the experience of providing care to a spouse in later life.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • La Trobe University
  • Warburton, Jeni, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Hodgkin, Sue , Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date11 Apr 2019
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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