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Time Use and Experienced Wellbeing of Older Caregivers: A Sequence Analysis

Publication Abstract

Freedman, Vicki, Jennifer C. Cornman, Deborah S. Carr, and Richard E. Lucas. Forthcoming. "Time Use and Experienced Wellbeing of Older Caregivers: A Sequence Analysis." The Gerontologist.

Background and Objectives

The diminished wellbeing of caregivers is well documented, but studies typically draw upon coarse measures of time use and thus provide limited understanding of the role of specific care activities in the daily lives of care providers. This study uses time diary data to explore whether there are signature care patterns throughout the day and whether these care patterns have implications for caregivers' experienced wellbeing.

Research Design and Methods

Using a national sample of 511 time diaries from older caregivers in the Disability and Use of Time supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we examine minutes of care provided on the prior day, overall and for four broad care categories (household, personal care, transportation, and visiting), and patterns of care over the day, the latter based on sequence and cluster analysis.


Older caregivers spend on average 2.3 hr providing care to another adult on care days. Caregiving follows a roller-coaster pattern over the day, peaking at mealtimes. Sequence analysis suggests five distinctive caregiving patterns, which vary by both demographic characteristics of the caregiver (gender, work status) and care arrangement type (relationship to recipient, whether sole caregiver to recipient). The 40% who provide only marginal assistance of about 1 hr report lower experienced wellbeing than the 28% who provide sporadic assistance with a mix of activities for about 2 hr.

Discussion and Implications

A substantial share of older caregivers provides only 1 hr of assistance on a given day but appears to be at risk for reduced wellbeing. Better understanding of the reason for their marginal involvement and reduced wellbeing is warranted.

DOI:10.1093/geront/gny175 (Full Text)

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