Caregiving: A Qualitative Concept Analysis

Article excerpt

The act of caregiving is not unfamiliar, but the term "caregiving" is relatively new, with the first recorded use of the word in 1966 (Caregiving, 2010). The etymology of the word "care" comes from the Old English term "wicim," meaning "mental suffering, mourning, sorrow, or trouble." "Give" is also Old English, from "5eo-, Siofan, Siaban," meaning "to bestow gratuitously" (Caregiving, 2010). When the two root meanings are assimilated, caregiving is the action/process of helping those who are suffering.

Sixty-five million Americans, which comprise 29% of the United States (U.S.) population, have served as unpaid family caregivers to an adult or a child (Caregiving in the United States, 2009). Caregiving is multi-dimensional. For example, family caregiving, one dimension of caregiving, is on the rise with an estimated 14% of family caregivers (16.8 million) caring for a special needs child under the age of 18. Parental caregiving, another dimension of caregiving, refers to caring for one's parent(s). Fifty five percent of families are currently providing parental care, while caring for their own children (Caregiving in the United States, 2009).

Caregiving estimates continue to escalate, and, as the population ages, the number of persons requiring care will subsequently increase. These estimates will no doubt have an unprecedented effect on the economy. Notably, the economic impact of informal caregivers was estimated to be $350 billion in 2006 (Arno, 2006).

Hybrid Concept Analysis

The development of the concept of caregiving for use in research lacks consistent conceptualization and operational definitions. The purpose of this manuscript is to report the results of our analysis of the concept of caregiving in an effort to promote conceptual clarity. This study employed a hybrid model of concept development which is based on three bodies of thought: philosophy of science, sociology of theory construction, and participant observation (Schwartz-Barcott & Kim, 1993). Both authors have extensive nursing experience as practicing RNs and current nurse educators as well as researchers studying chronic illness to advance the nursing profession. Additionally, the authors are caregivers and have a passion for further exploration of the concept of caregiving, hence the impetus for this concept analysis. From our experience, we have noted differences in how both caregivers and care recipients perceive caregiving. Beth stated, "This played a role for me in the inspiration to conduct this study. I remember a care recipient participant in a previous study who eloquently described different providers, those that engaged with him as an individual and those that sat in the corner reading a magazine, doing paperwork or talking on the phone." Melinda also shared a similar experience with a care recipient, stating that the caregiver who talked to her and saw her as a "person" and not a just "diagnosis" provided the best care. This led us to wonder: "What is caregiving?" Also, are there other concepts that more accurately represent a situation whereby one person is assisting another?

We selected a qualitative inquiry using a hybrid model as the most appropriate level of inquiry in the exploration of caregiving because this process combines theoretical analysis with empirical observation which is helpful since few empirical definitions have been written about caregiving. This allows for "a focus on the essential aspects of definition and measurement, ... is applicable to applied sciences ... and is especially useful in studying significant and central phenomena in nursing" (Schwartz-Barcott & Kim, 1993, p. 108).

This model consists of three phases: (a) theoretical, (b) fieldwork, and (c) analytical. In the initial theoretical phase, a concept is identified and the literature is reviewed for definitions, essential elements of the concept, as well as measurements related to the concept. …