WHAT DO WE MEAN BY
A FAMILY CAREGIVER?
Caring can be viewed as a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our 'world' so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life sustaining web. ( Fisher & Toronto 1990:40)
We agree with this very general definition of 'caregiving' or 'caring', but for our purposes we need to be more specific. In an overview of recent feminist literature on the concept of caregiving, Hilary Graham ( 1991) argues for a broadening of this idea. She maintains that gender has been made the key analytical dimension and has resulted in the exclusion of other important aspects such as class and race. The need to expand the concept of caregiving to encompass a broad range of locations and social relations of care is important and has been pursued in various studies. 1 This broad and unified approach has been useful, indeed imperative, at the political level in raising the profile of caregiving and highlighting the gendered division of labour in our society.
A close examination of the concept of caregiving reveals, however, that the term is often too general and does not recognise the complex and variable experiences of caregivers. The existing analyses of the concept are limited when we are attempting to understand the experiences of what we call family caregivers--as opposed to the professional and the volunteer--and to assist them in their role. 'Family caregivers' are people who are under a kind of obligation to