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Caring for the elderly - identity transitions in informal carers

Trees, Rachel


Rachel Trees


Dianne Dean


Population demographics in the UK are changing, with an increased number of elderly and infirm individuals which is expected to continue to rise. The requirements of care need for this population outstrip the present level of informal care provision by social and health services, care and nursing homes etc. resulting in a care needs gap. This gap is being filled by informal carers – family members, friends and neighbours who provide care to the elderly and infirm in their own homes, without formal payment.

Research into carers has been considerable – we know who carers are, how they care and how much, but the actual experience of carers remains under-researched. Consideration to how carers experience caring, how they see themselves and the change to their lives has been scant. Essentially, how carers’ self-identity transitions with the onset or changes in informal care is not understood.

The objective of this research is to address this gap in the knowledge by identifying types of ‘distance’ associated with and affecting care identities and their relationships with others and to understand the transitional process of self-identity in carers.

Using the lens of self-identity and the construct of ‘distance’ this phenomenological study revealed how carers transition from their previous identity to that of carer. A total of 31 face to face interviews and statements with carers and care recipients in East Yorkshire and Hull took place throughout 2016, data was transcribed and analysed using an abductive approach. The research revealed four concepts of distance associated with and affecting carer identities and relationships; Geographical/Physical; Social; Psychological and Emotional. Of these four, emotional distance was identified as a method for carers to manipulate their self-identity between their previous identity and that of a carer.

A conceptual framework was developed that reflected the transitional process of carer identity using motivators, moderators and manifestations to highlight the transitional process and re-positioning of carer identity on a continuum between previous life, activities, roles and responsibilities (their previous life identity or PLI) and carer life, activities, roles and responsibilities (their carer life identity or CLI).

This study assists in understanding the wants and needs of carers in an effort to improve their everyday lives and will be of interest to policy-makers, industry and charities as well as carers themselves.


Trees, R. (2019). Caring for the elderly - identity transitions in informal carers. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 2019


Thesis (2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 Trees, Rachel. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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