Convoys of Care: Reflections on a Methodologically Complex Study

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 13:15
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Candace KEMP, Georgia State University, USA
Mary BALL, Emory University, USA
Jennifer Craft MORGAN, Georgia State University, USA
Patrick J. DOYLE, Brightview Senior Living, USA
Elisabeth O BURGESS, Georgia State University, USA
Molly M PERKINS, Emory University, USA
Rarely do researchers use longitudinal qualitative methods to study older adults and their care networks, including the full complement of family members (spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc.) who participate individually and collectively in care activities. In this paper, we introduce our study, “Convoys of Care: Developing Collaborative Care Partnerships in Assisted Living” and tell its methodological story. We share knowledge gleaned from our in-depth study of frail elders, their family members, and paid caregivers using formal and informal interviewing and participant observation. We discuss the now-complete first of two two-year waves of data collection during which we followed 28 focal residents and 155 of their care network members in four diverse assisted living settings located in the southern United States. Following Corbin & Strauss’ (2010) Grounded Theory Method principles, our data collection and analysis take place simultaneously and involve reflexivity and memo-writing. Using data from twice-monthly research team meetings, field notes, and memos, we critically reflect on our design and ensuing methodological implications. Our analysis identifies six broad study features that make our research innovative, but that also create challenges. These features are: our research focus and topics of inquiry; scope and complexity of design; nature and modes of data collection; frequency and duration of data collection; research context; and analysis strategy. We consider the benefits and challenges associated with these design features as they pertain to recruitment and retention, data collection, quality, and management, research team work, researcher roles, and ethical considerations pertaining to participant and researcher risk. We conclude by identifying methodological transparency as essential to cumulative knowledge-building. Such transparency fosters informed and ethical research decision-making and is necessary for the advancement of scientific theory, methods, and substantive knowledge, particularly in relation to sociological studies of family life, relationships, and caregiving.