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Family Caregivers: Disability, Illness and Ageing.

The research that is reported in this book commenced with a successful research proposal to VicHealth in 1989 and finished in 1996. One of the many exciting features of this research is that pivotal to it was the driving force of the Victorian Carer's Programme which was involved in what appears to be an exemplary collaborative industry endeavour with academic research institutes. An impressive cross-disciplinary research team evidently worked well together to produce a blend of qualitative and quantitative data that promises to be a rich source for policy makers and service organisations in the coming years. As the editors state in the preface to the book, there has been a `vast change' in the awareness of the presence let alone the needs of carers in the last few years. New awareness leads to a search for political initiatives and strategies. This book contains a plethora of ideas and recommendations to help to inform both.

The initial aim of the research was to identify the complex profile of carers in the community and describe their experiences across a range of disabilities and demographic descriptors. There is an important longitudinal aspect to this research as the experience of caregiving is described over time -- a rare aspect of carer research. An interesting feature of this longitudinal study is that the authors describe the inclusion of a health promotion element within the research process -- a feature which gives the research a strong action research orientation.

Central to the research is the development and piloting of a survey questionnaire that was sent to a random sample of 1000 carets. It is also important to note that this survey included a representative sample of non-English speaking carers. Another distinguishing feature of the methodology is that it is not reliant on a definition of carers that assumes the co-location of the cater with the person she/he is caring for, that is, it respects the psychological and dependency elements of caring as well as the physical ones. Finally, a sample of carets was involved in follow up interviews -- again a feature of the research which adds considerably to the validity of the findings.

The outcomes of the research deserve to be read in their entirety. The book is very easy to read and combines statistical data with descriptive data in a very engaging way. For those readers who wish to concentrate on the data analysis rather than the findings, the appendices are extensive and honour the methodological rigour of this research. One of the positive aspects of the description of outcomes in the book is the non-pathologising of carets. The notion of burden, so common in the literature on caring, is replaced with a vision of strength and energy on the part of caters. However, the risks of caring are well documented. The chapter on findings provides a rich tapestry of information for policy makers and providers to consider.

This book is based on quality Australian research about the needs of caregivers across a range of disabilities. There is a paucity of well researched caret literature in Australia and a lot of what we do have, though useful, is anecdotal. This book helps considerably to address that deficit and to do so in a way that makes the research findings very available to carets, academics, students, service providers and policy makers.

Maria Harries, School of Social Work & Social Policy, University of Western Australia
COPYRIGHT 1999 Australian Council of Social Service
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Harries, Maria
Publication:Australian Journal of Social Issues
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1999
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