Caring, like families, is complicated

It is evident that care and caring relationships are complicated and that they change over time.  Across the world, people are living for longer and they are increasingly experiencing chronic rather than acute or infectious diseases in older age.  This means that more families are caring for older family members for longer-periods.  This can be challenging, particularly when there are needs and expectations that younger people work for longer and combine caring for older relatives with caring for younger children. It can also be a great opportunity for families to become closer and to get to know each other in new ways.


Research also indicates that caring relationships are often not one-way.  A growing number of older people care for their grandchildren or younger family members.  Similarly, there are more older couples caring for one another at home with or without the help of additional paid care services.  There is also a growing number of young carers who help and support their parents or siblings as a result of physical and mental ill health, disability, or problematic substance misuse.  Research indicates that many young carers may not get the level of support and care they need because of their additional responsibilities and this can affect their own development in the short and long term.


Caring comes in many forms and can affect all of us at different and often multiple points across the course of our lives.  It is not always clear who is being cared-for and who is caring and some people find it unhelpful to think and talk about family relationships in this way.  People also have different feelings and experiences of caring.  It can feel like a duty, an obligation, a pleasure and an opportunity.  Often, it can be many if not all of these things are the same time.  These are just some of the issues that make care and caring complex and unique to each family in which it takes place.  It is important that policy-makers, researchers and practitioners understand and can respond to these differences in order to engage with the different realities and meanings of family care and caring.