Nursing Publications


Aboriginal Women Caregivers of the Elderly

Document Type


Publication Date



Rural and Remote Health






Introduction: The purpose of this qualitative study was to develop a comprehensive understanding of Aboriginal women's experiences and perceptions of providing care to the elderly in geographically isolated communities (GIC). Research with Aboriginal women caregivers is essential as the population of Aboriginal elders is increasing, and Aboriginal women represent the majority of caregivers in their communities.

Methods: This study was guided by focused ethnography, which seeks an understanding of a sub-group within a cultural group by uncovering the less obvious expressions and behaviours of the sub-group members. Using one-on-one open-ended interviews and participant observation, 13 women from a number of Aboriginal communities in northern and southern Ontario participated in this study. Data analysis was conducted by reviewing transcripts of interviews to identify codes and themes.

Results: Study findings revealed that four concentric circles represent the caring experiences of the Aboriginal women participants: the healers, the family, the Aboriginal community, and the non-Aboriginal community. Cultural values greatly informed participants' perceptions about caring for elderly persons in GIC. These values are represented in five themes: passing on traditions, being chosen to care, supporting the circle of healers, (re)establishing the circles of care, and accepting/refusing external resources.

Conclusion: The findings from this study have significant implications for healthcare practice and future research.

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