Life course trajectories of family care: Implications for care policy
6 July 2021
Professor Janet Fast, University of Alberta, Canada
Growing care needs of an aging population is a “hot button” global policy issue. Negative care-related consequences are well established, as is their threat to sustainability of the family and formal care sectors, labour markets and the economy. However, caregiving is most often seen as a status at a point in time, largely ignoring the time location and cumulative aspects of care and its consequences. Yet life course theory tells us that care is a series of transitions into and out of care episodes over the life course. Carers likely experience diverse patterns of care, the impacts of which accumulate differentially. This presentation first describes five distinct theoretically and empirically derived life course care trajectory types based on the authors’ previous work, then discusses their implications for public policy.
Findings confirm that caregiving experiences do not occur in an historical vacuum and that lifetime patterns of care vary in ways that have implications for research, policy and practice. First, policy makers already are challenged to meet carers’ needs given their enormous diversity. The life course care trajectories concept layers on a whole new dimension of diversity—substantive differences in patterns of caring across the life course. At the same time the life course care trajectories concept adds nuance to our knowledge of who are the carers most at-risk of poor later life outcomes, help identify potential points of intervention, and reveal diverse support needs.
Professor Janet Fast is a family and consumer economist and Professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta and is Co-Director of the Research on Aging, Policies and Practice program. Dr Fast works to create and transfer knowledge, to engage with public, government and other user groups, and to work at the interfaces among them. Her research focuses the economics of aging, the paid and unpaid care of family members and the capacity of assistive technologies to address the consequences family care. Her research addresses family, labour, health and continuing care policy issues, and she is often called upon to consult with or advise government policy-makers and NGOs on policy related to caregiving and workplace supports.