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The Gerontologist 44:750-759 (2004)
© 2004 The Gerontological Society of America

A New Typology of Home-Care Helpers

Eileen J. Porter, PhD, RN1, Lawrence H. Ganong, PhD1, Nancy Drew, PhD, RN2 and Tracy I. Lanes, PhD(c), RN1

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Eileen J. Porter, PhD, RN, Professor, MU Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri–Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211. E-mail: PorterEJ{at}

Purpose: The formal–informal dichotomy of home care, which has been a theoretical framework in quantitative and qualitative research, might not be descriptive of older persons' views about their home-care providers. This qualitative study explores the perspectives of older women about the characteristics of their home-care providers. Design and Methods: Three interviews were conducted with each of 25 women (aged 80–94 years) during the first 4 months of participation in a 3-year phenomenological study. The women described their helpers. We differentiated helper types on the basis of the nature of the help, and we explored variations in compensation arrangements. Results: We delineated a new typology of home-care helpers: regular helpers, on-call helpers, can-will doers, and mainstays. Implications: When home-care helpers are categorized by type of assistance provided, the potential value of their efforts is more evident. The association of formal care with paid help and informal care with nonpaid help limits the effectiveness of the dichotomy as a basis for home-care-payment policies. The new home-care-helper typology cuts across the dimensions of the dichotomy, providing an alternative theoretical framework for further research.

Key Words: Home-care-helper typology • Formal–informal home care • Standby assistance

All GSA journals Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Copyright © 2004 by The Gerontological Society of America.