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Perceived reliability of assistance among American older adults: a study of kin and non-kin help

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As a neglected dimension of the quality of care, assessments of caregiver reliability by older adults receiving help contributes to the better understanding of unmet needs for assistance in everyday life. This study examines how the numbers and composition of helpers ‐ both potential and actual ‐ relate to older Americans’ reports of the reliability of assistance. According to the 2008 US National Elder Mistreatment Study (n = 2,176), the potential network, proxied by marital status and household size, was not a significant predictor of unreliable care, nor was the actual number of caregivers. We distinguish four types of helping sources: kin-only; exclusively informal non-kin (eg friends, neighbours); exclusively formal (paid); and mixed type. There was a higher risk of unreliable care among respondents relying exclusively on informal non-kin assistance compared with exclusively kin help. Kin-only provided more reliable care than informal non-kin but were no more reliable than formal or mixed types.
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Keywords: aging; formal assistance; informal help

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: , 2: , Irvine,

Publication date: May 2019

This article was made available online on April 8, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Perceived reliability of assistance among American older adults: a study of kin and non-kin help".

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  • The International Journal of Care and Caring (IJCC) is a new multidisciplinary journal designed to advance scholarship and debate in the important and expanding field of care and caring. Multidisciplinary and international in scope, it publishes high quality contributions on care, caring and carers from all regions of the world. IJCC has a broad focus, covering care and caring for people of any age who have long-term conditions, disabilities or frailties, or who are seriously ill or near the end of life. It explores the economic, organisational, political, social, legal, familial, transnational and ethical settings in which this care occurs.

    IJCC is concerned with care provided as paid work and as support for family members, friends or neighbours; with care in home, community and residential settings; and with formal and informal care relations, organisation, systems and markets. It focuses on 'receiving' and 'giving' care and on the gendered nature and social, political, legal and economic status and circumstances of care and caring. It debates the support needed in localities, workplaces and health systems to make care and caring feasible and rewarding for carers and dignified and supportive of independence for care recipients. IJCC welcomes contributions on caring relationships, the ethics and political economy of care, care as a focus of moral philosophy and feminist analysis and care and caring as sources of claims-making and challenge and as the spur for national and global social movements.

    The journal encourages critical engagement with policy and practice developments and aims to include contributions from different areas of the world in each edition. Its regular Debates and Issues section features dialogue with carers’ organisations, policymakers, trade unions, employers and academics, to encourage global dialogue and international sharing of ideas, expertise and experience.

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