Cover: Guardians of Health

Guardians of Health

The Dimensions of Elder Caregiving Among Women in a Mexico City Neighborhood

Published in: Social Science & Medicine, Volume 68, Issue 2, pages 228-234 (January 2009). doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.10.026

Posted on rand.org Jul 13, 2023

by Carolyn A. Mendez-Luck, David P. Kennedy, Steven P. Wallace

Little is known about the family care of older adults in Mexico and the role of women in this process. To begin to fill this knowledge gap, this paper describes how a small sample of low-income women in one Mexico City neighborhood conceptualized the caregiver role and identified the forms of assistance they gave to their older relatives on a daily basis. A grounded theory approach was used to collect and analyze the data. Forty-one semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with female caregivers. The age of participants was between 19 and 83 years, and care recipients between 56 and 92 years. The relationship of caregiver to care recipient was wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, sibling, and other relative. The mean length of time providing care was 5 years. Most participants were not employed outside the home, and the median monthly household income was 2000 pesos. We found that caregiving was a life-changing event, with 27 of 41 participants viewing themselves as guardians. Caregivers' emphasis was on care recipients' emotional needs in order to provide "the most precious gift" of "time and attention." Two forms of assistance were 'keeping company' and 'watching out' as safeguards against poor health or further decline in health. These findings increase the cultural understanding of caregiving in Mexico. Further research is needed to test the caregiving concepts identified in this study.

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