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Care-giving expectations and challenges among elders and their adult children in Southern Sri Lanka



The elderly population in Sri Lanka is growing rapidly. Elders are traditionally cared for in the homes of their adult children, but the shifting socio-economic environment in Sri Lanka challenges this arrangement. This paper describes the dynamics of elder–care-giver relationships in Southern Sri Lanka. Data included four focus group discussions and five in-depth interviews with elderly, and ten in-depth interviews with adult children of the elderly. Discussion guide topics included care-giving arrangements, and roles/responsibilities of elders and care-givers. Using a grounded theory approach, a comprehensive analytic memo was developed and discussed to explore emerging themes on the care-giver dynamic. Both elders and care-givers felt that elders should be taken care of in the home by their children. They pointed to a sense of duty and role modelling of parental care-giving that is passed down through generations. Even as elders desired support from their children, they feared losing their independence, and saw financial autonomy as important for maintaining relationship balance. Care-giving challenges included: households where both the adult child and his/her spouse worked outside the home; households where elders had a disproportionate amount of household work; economically stressed households; and lack of direct communication between elders and care-givers regarding conflicts. Results point to strong values around caring for elderly in the home, but identify challenges to this arrangement in the future.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Melissa H. Watt, Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, Box 90519, Durham, NC 27708, USA. E-mail:


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Care-giving expectations and challenges among elders and their adult children in Southern Sri Lanka



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