Aim: This paper is a report of a concept analysis to identify a meaning of care dependency that can be shared by both care givers and care recipients.
Background: Care dependency can be perceived from the care recipient's and the care giver's perspective. To allow for comparisons, both sides should share the same understanding of the concept. The current research about care dependency has focused on external assessment by nurses and suffers from a tendency to use the concept with different meanings. As a consequence, research on dependency may capture different phenomena.
Method: Walker and Avant's method for concept analysis served as the guideline for this study. The Medline, CINAHL and Cochrane databases were searched for the period 1996-2006 using the terms dependence, dependency, care dependence and care dependency.
Results: Care dependency can be defined as a subjective, secondary need for support in the domain of care to compensate a self-care deficit. Functional limitations are a necessary antecedent and unmet needs are a possible consequence of care dependency. The conceptual difference between care dependency, functional limitations and unmet needs may be meaningless for study participants. They may better understand these differences if they are asked about all three phenomena in the same investigation.
Conclusion: Care givers and care recipients can agree on the suggested attributes of care dependency but may judge them in different ways. Self-assessed care dependency has the potential to challenge preconceptions of care givers about care dependency.