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Nurses and family caregivers of elderly relatives engaged in 4 evolving types of relationships

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QUESTION: What is the nature of the relationships between community nurses and family members caring for elderly relatives?


Qualitative study using a critical ethnographic approach.


Southwestern Ontario, Canada.


23 nurse-family caregiver pairs were identified from 3 community nursing agencies. Most pairs saw each other weekly and had known each other for periods ranging from 3 months to 14 years. All of the family caregivers were women (age range 33–82 y), and most provided care to their husbands who had chronic illnesses.


Family caregivers and nurses each participated in private, indepth interviews in which they talked about their experiences of working together. Data from 38 interviews (mean length 75 min) and from field notes were transcribed and analysed using, as a frame of refer-ence, Twigg and Atkin's 4 conceptualisations of response of health and social workers to family caregivers.

Main findings

Nurses and family caregivers had 4 interrelated and evolving types of relationships, each representing different conceptualisations …

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  • Sources of funding: Health Canada (NHRDP) Research Training Award, Canadian Nurses' Foundation Research Grant, and Helen Glass Research Award (Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Society).

  • For correspondence: Dr C Ward-Griffin, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B8, Canada. Fax +1 519 661 3928.