Caring responsibility from the perspectives of older persons whose adult children are their caregivers

Helle Elisabeth Andersen*, Bente Hoeck, Dorthe Susanne Nielsen, Jesper Ryg, Charlotte Delmar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Aim: To describe lifeworld insights into the phenomenon of caring responsibility from the perspectives of persons aged 80+ years living alone with chronic illness, physical frailty and dependency on adult children. Design: A phenomenological inquiry inspired by Reflective Lifeworld Research. Method: Semi-structured lifeworld interviews with 11 persons aged 80+ years were conducted following their discharge. The interviews lasted 35–83 min, were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Both interviews and the analysis followed the epistemological and methodological principles of Reflective Lifeworld Research. Findings: We identified the essential meaning ‘It means everything’ and four constituents illuminating different aspects inherent in the complex phenomenon of caring responsibility; ‘A life-constraining transition,’ ‘Trusting the children to fill the gaps and be the glue,’ ‘Tacit responsibility, agreement and acceptance’ and ‘Depending on the children and knowing they are burdened by you.’. Conclusions: Caring responsibility is based on a trusting relationship and tacit agreements indicating an understanding of interdependence and acceptance of dependence on adult children. However, a paradox appears when older persons express a deep-rooted perception of autonomy and independence as they have difficulties with their growing dependency and feelings of being burdensome. Older persons try to balance the continuum of autonomy, their existential self-image and actual capability. The practical part of caring responsibility seems to dominate and strongly affect the parent–child relationship because the child needs to take care of practical issues related to healthcare management and instrumental activities of daily living, leaving less time for meaningful togetherness. Implications for practice: Older persons want their adult children to be involved and acknowledged when planning care and treatment because they often seem to serve as the ‘glue’ that makes it possible for the parent to remain in his/her own home.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Older People Nursing
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27. Jul 2020


  • adult children as caregivers
  • caring responsibility
  • frailty
  • independence/dependence
  • interviews
  • older ill persons
  • own home
  • phenomenology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Caring responsibility from the perspectives of older persons whose adult children are their caregivers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this