Time use of households with and without a wheelchair-confined member: a case study approach



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Texas Tech University


In addition to the demands on resources experienced by all families, those families with a member who has a disability must often accomplish more with fewer resources. Few records exist of the time adjustments that result. This study explored the household time use of couples with a male member who had mobility impairment.

The research addressed how time is allocated over 24-hour periods when the female spouse is the caregiver for the male spouse confined to a wheelchair and how much of the time allocations can be attributed to the disability. The cases consisted of 12 retired couples. Each of 6 couples included a male spouse confined to a wheelchair. A comparison group consisted of 6 couples in which neither spouse had a disability. Time-use data were collected by direct, naturalistic observation methodology over the entire 24-hour period for 2 days for each couple. This resulted in the accumulation of records of detailed daily living activities difficult to obtain by other research methods. Data were analyzed by group and individual totals for 18 activity categories and also by primary and secondary tasks.

Analysis revealed that females with a wheelchair-confined spouse allocated more time to physical and non-physical care of household members, food preparation, dishwashing, housecleaning, maintenance, paid and unpaid work and "other" activities than females in the comparison group. The female caregivers spent no time in organization participation and less time than comparison females in shopping, clothing construction, clothing care, management, social/recreational activities, eating and personal care. Females with a wheelchair-confined spouse spent an average of 122 minutes each 24-hour period on caregiving. Disability prohibited or severely restricted many activities of the male members with an average of 7.5 hours more time spent per 24-hour period than those without disability on the activities of personal care, eating and waiting. Frequency of interruptions of daily tasks were found to increase for female caregivers.

Societal costs are incurred within households, and in society as a whole, with the onset of disability. The resulting time adjustments imposed upon all members have assessed In this study. Resource management of disability in a family setting is an area which merits continued research.