Convoys of care: theorizing intersections of formal and informal care

J Aging Stud. 2013 Jan;27(1):15-29. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2012.10.002. Epub 2012 Nov 15.


Although most care to frail elders is provided informally, much of this care is paired with formal care services. Yet, common approaches to conceptualizing the formal-informal intersection often are static, do not consider self-care, and typically do not account for multi-level influences. In response, we introduce the "convoy of care" model as an alternative way to conceptualize the intersection and to theorize connections between care convoy properties and caregiver and recipient outcomes. The model draws on Kahn and Antonucci's (1980) convoy model of social relations, expanding it to include both formal and informal care providers and also incorporates theoretical and conceptual threads from life course, feminist gerontology, social ecology, and symbolic interactionist perspectives. This article synthesizes theoretical and empirical knowledge and demonstrates the convoy of care model in an increasingly popular long-term care setting, assisted living. We conceptualize care convoys as dynamic, evolving, person- and family-specific, and influenced by a host of multi-level factors. Care convoys have implications for older adults' quality of care and ability to age in place, for job satisfaction and retention among formal caregivers, and for informal caregiver burden. The model moves beyond existing conceptual work to provide a comprehensive, multi-level, multi-factor framework that can be used to inform future research, including research in other care settings, and to spark further theoretical development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers*
  • Community Health Services
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Health Services for the Aged*
  • Housing for the Elderly
  • Humans
  • Independent Living*
  • Long-Term Care
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Self Care
  • Social Support