Family care of older people in Portugal: caring trajectories and their meanings.
São José, José
Educational Sciences and Sociology Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (University of Alagarve) and Institute of Social Sciences (University of Lisbon) Faro, Portugal
The presentation is based on the results of a PhD dissertation carried out at University of Lisbon in 2009. The research, of qualitative nature, focused on the topic of family care for older dependent people, more precisely on the caring trajectories and their meanings. The results obtained revealed a diverse and complex social reality, both in terms of the practices and in terms of the social representations. The transitions to the caring trajectories were carried out in different ways and at different timings. Besides this, they had a plurality of foundations (or reasons): from unconditional filial duty to love. Some of the carers interviewed have caring trajectories of short duration, whilst, on the opposite end, other carers have long caring trajectories. Caring through time took different paths; having in some cases implied a gradual increase of time and energy spent on care and, on the opposite end, implied a gradual decrease of time and energy spent. It also became evident that, whilst in some cases, carers are able to reconcile caring with other life trajectories, in other cases, caring may produce interferences on other life trajectories and/ or may suffer interferences from these. Furthermore, this research was able to capture several meanings associated with the caring trajectories, which go from "gratification" to "oppression". The diversity and complexity found relates with multiple factors, both of micro-social nature (e.g. level of individual resources) and of meso and macro-structural nature (social class, gender, etc). The study of caring through time and of its meanings also contributed to enrich the knowledge related with some important sociological questions, such as the degree of control carers have in the construction of their caring biographies, the importance of affection in these biographies and the role of family in the satisfaction of the older persons? needs.