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Exploring identity in the 'figured worlds' of cancer care-giving and marriage in Australia

Following changes in the structure and funding of the Australian medical system, patients have become consumers' or clients'. Family and friends have become carers' or caregivers', signifying their increased responsibilities as patients move from hospitals to communities. While policy makers embrace the term carer', some argue that the title is not widely recognised and has disempowering connotations. This paper examines spouses' reflections on the term carer' based on qualitative interviews with 32 Australians caring for a spouse with cancer from a study conducted between 2006 and 2009. Recruitment involved survey and snowball sampling. Following a grounded theory approach, data collection and analysis were performed simultaneously. Using Holland and colleagues' sociocultural identity as practice' theory and a thematic approach to analysis, findings depict identification with the spouse' and carer' label as relationally situated and dependent on meaningful interaction. Although others argue that the term ‘carer’ is a ‘failure’, these findings depict identification with the label as contextual, positional and enacted, not fixed. Furthermore, and of most significance to practitioners and policy makers, the title has value, providing carers with an opportunity to position themselves as entitled to inclusion and support, and providing health professionals with a potential indicator of a spouse's increased burden.

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Health & Social Care in the Community

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Web of science - exported 12/7/2016
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