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Conference Paper International Association for Time-Use Research Conference

Using Time Diaries to Locate Hidden Carers of the Elderly and People with Disabilities


Publication date

19 Sep 2003


Governments around the world rely on the unpaid work of informal carers to ensure that frail elderly people and people with severe disabilities are able to perform the tasks of daily living. Informal care work can impose considerable constraints on the lifestyles of the people who assume this role. Time diaries may appear ideal instruments for monitoring the daily activities of carers, yet diaries often collect very limited instances of informal care. This paper primarily uses the 1997 national Australian Time Use Study and qualitative research with carers conducted in Australia to examine the extent to which diaries capture care, though the paper also considers data from Canada and from European countries. The paper then examines the varieties of care activities which either get recorded under other categories or which do not appear at all in diary data. This paper then examines the challenges raised by diarists who do not recognise some care activity as care, and also by diarists who provide care but who do not self-identify as carers. This paper examines the degree to which researchers can model the time signatures of carers to redress some of the limitations in diary data for analysing adult care. The paper also proposes means by which diary data collection might be amended to capture a more complete picture of adult care activities.


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