Carers as System Navigators: Exploring Sources, Processes and Outcomes of Structural Burden. By: Funk, Laura M; Dansereau, Lisette; Novek, Sheila. Gerontologist. Jun2019, Vol. 59 Issue 3, p426-435. 10p.

Structural features of formal care systems influence the amount, difficulty, and complexity of what carers do as they interface with those systems. In this study, we explored how carers navigate health and social care systems, and their experiences of structural burden related to features such as complexity and fragmentation. This qualitative descriptive inquiry drew on data from in-person interviews with 32 carers of older adults, which were analyzed first using inductive thematic analysis and then using structural burden as a conceptual lens. Participant accounts revealed how navigating formal systems on behalf of older adult family members can exact considerable demands on carers in terms of time investment and emotional energy. In this way, care systems exacerbate the stress and structural burden experienced by carers, even when formal services alleviate other forms of carer burden. Our findings contribute to knowledge of how the structural context of formal services shapes carer experiences and outcomes. To promote equity and prevent burden, system navigation work should be considered as a public, structural issue, rather than an individual-level problem of skills and learning.