Who cares? The size, scope, and composition of the caregiver support system

J. D. Penrod, Rosalie A Kane, Robert L Kane, M. D. Finch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The informal care networks of 242 impaired older people were examined in terms of the primary caregiver and secondary helpers. Most primary caregivers had at least one secondary helper; 88% identified helpers who provided hands- on help, 19% reported that helpers contributed financially, and 44% had helpers involved in care decisions. The size of the network was larger for direct care compared to financial or decision-making assistance. Almost half of primary caregivers reported that their spouse helped. It was expected that after controlling for characteristics of the primary caregiver and of the older person, that characteristics of the secondary caregiver network would influence the amount and type of primary caregiver assistance and formal care used by the older person. However, both hours and type of care by the primary caregiver were independent of size, scope, and composition of the secondary helper network. This independence suggests that efforts to alter the secondary caregiver network may have limited effects on the primary caregiver.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-497
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995


  • Family care
  • Informal care
  • Support networks


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