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WELLBECARE: a framework for caregiver well-being

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Josephine Go JefferiesORCiD


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Transformative Service Research (TSR) embeds, promotes and prioritises well-being in service systems. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the significant global contribution of informal caregivers ensuring the well-being of family and community members. Despite informal caregivers’ critical role in overall social and health care provision, there is a paucity of studies recognising the duality of caregiving, as fulfilling and purposeful work that is also physically, emotionally, and materially demanding. TSR examining how caregiving affects well-being and how to support informal carers remains underdeveloped. This paper aims to characterize and operationalise the nature of caregiver well-being within service systems and support informal caregivers for societal well-being. Our integrative review of the caregiver and well-being literature reveals a highly fragmented and cursory landscape. Informal caregiving involves providing some type of unpaid, ongoing assistance with everyday activities, such as washing, dressing, eating, and assisting with mobility, and medical care, to persons with chronic illness or disability (Roth et al., 2015). Historically considered women’s work in family settings (Revenson et al. 2016), demand for informal care embracing kin and non-kin is increasing due to demographic change, health care advances, long-term care policy and government cost-containment pressures, reinforcing preference for informal care over institutionalisation (Riedel, 2012). While informal caregiving can be positive and enriching, most studies take a deficit-focused approach reporting caregivers’ burden: including less time for physical exercise, poor diet, lifestyle, and declining mental health (Kaschowitz and Brandt, 2017). With elevated risk of increased morbidity and mortality due to long hours providing care, social isolation, limited ability for relationships and participation in society, and financial burden, in the US, caregiver well-being is reported as significantly lower than non-caregivers’ (Witters, 2010). Policy makers, social and health care providers, and scholars increasingly acknowledge caregiver well-being as central to caregivers’ self-care and the care they provide to others (Tronto, 1993). Building on a development perspective of holistic (material, relational and social) well-being that accounts for both objective and subjective dimensions over time (White, 2010), we develop the WELLBECARE framework to characterise caregiver well-being. Our focus on the relational is salient to the caregiver-care receiver dyad and provides new possibilities for understanding caregivers’ well-being in contexts of shifting temporal, spatial and power dynamics in a human-centred care system. Furthermore, the WELLBECARE framework provides a new lens for research and policy on caregivers’ well-being that addresses limitations of previous well-being models. As public policy influences a service ecosystem’s capacity to facilitate well-being (Anderson et al., 2013), our conceptual paper contributes policy analysis to TSR, illustrating the WELLBECARE framework in action by comparing national caregiver policies (New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom) for their impact on well-being and offering recommendations. Finally, we discuss the contribution of our WELLBECARE framework to TSR and service innovation literature. We suggest the process of value co-creation for well-being occurs through a WELLBECARE process wherein well-being emerges through objective and subjective perspectives in contention. We conclude with a service research and policy agenda to advance transformative service provision for caregivers using a holistic well-being model.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kelleher C, Go Jefferies J, Peñaloza L, Luca N, Ozanne L, Downey H, Jenhaug L, Hibbert S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: In Press

Conference Name: 17th International Research Symposium on Service Excellence in Management (QUIS17)

Year of Conference: 2022

Acceptance date: 01/11/2021

Publisher: Editorial Universitat Politècnica de València


DOI: 10.4995/QUIS17.2022.15169

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9788413960197