No doubt many readers have their own experience of caregiving, as we do. In a sense each story is unique, each with its pain and joy, its desperate and funny moments. What we have aimed to do in our research is to capture the full spectrum of caregiving roles and experiences: a young mother caring for her small son with Down's Syndrome, with each developmental milestone reliving the loss of the child she expected to have; a daughter caring for her mother with dementia, adjusting to the loss of the person who once cared for her, balancing this role with her other roles as mother, wife and part-time worker; a mother in her early seventies whose caregiving started 43 years ago with the birth of her son, severely disabled both physically and mentally with cerebral palsy; an elderly husband caring for his frail wife who has recently moved into a nursing home after 50 years of being together, and whom he visits every day.
With an ageing population, increasing rates of disability and a shift in emphasis from institutional to home-based care, in Australia as in other developed countries there is a growing expectation that it is families who will care for people with chronic illness and disability. It is not surprising, therefore, that caregiving within the family has become a major focus of research interest overseas and, more recently, in Australia. It is also not surprising that informal carers have been