Global Resources

The Hidden Costs of Home-care: a Research Methodology for Case Studies

Author: M. Alvarez, M. E. Tijoux, I. C. Reca
Publication Date: Sep 2003
There is an increased tendency in Chile to delegate care for ill and dependent individuals to families. Women, perceived as 'naturally' suited to providing care to their family group or communities, often take on this task. This study was undertaken by researchers, in Santiago, with a sample of 21 care-giving cases, in 18 of which the caregiver was female. The objectives were: to calculate, describe and analyse the work performed by caregivers for chronically-ill or disabled family members, to measure the human and material costs of caring, and to promote policies such as comprehensive support and training from the health institutions. The study tested a methodology for measuring caregivers' paid and unpaid labour to evaluate the costs in shifting the burden of care for the ill from institutional to family systems and found that when a family must rely on paid caregivers, rather than family members, costs of care increase considerably. A questionnaire, including a time-sheet, for registering the activities of the caregiver, was used during household visits. The researcher also carried out on-site observation of the care-giving. The interviewees' descriptions of their activities were recorded in detail. The average time spent by the principal caregivers in these tasks was nine hours per day. However, despite careful procedures, some under estimation was unavoidable in the calculations of caregivers' unpaid work. The paper states that such work must receive compensation through policies and programs designed to support homecare.