Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Florence Netting

Second Advisor

Holly Matto

Third Advisor

Peter Nguyen

Fourth Advisor

Jill Rowe


Studies of Ghanaians who have immigrated to the United States indicate that both economic and emotional support continue to be provided to non-migrant families in Ghana. However support to “family relatives” has been studied generally, without specifying age. Thus, relationships between immigrants and their elderly relatives, particularly those who may be frail and vulnerable, have not been the focus of previous research. In addition, it is necessary to examine the dynamics that shape attitudes towards elderly people, and which in turn influence eldercare patterns among Ghanaian immigrants. Based on the literature, the researcher identified four factors relevant to international long-distance eldercare: (1) support caregivers receive (or previously received) from elderly relatives, (2) filial obligation towards elderly relatives, (3) perceived vulnerability of the elderly people in Ghana, and (4) vulnerabilities that make immigrants unable to provide eldercare. The main objective of this study was to examine the extent to which these four factors shape the provision of eldercare by Ghanaian immigrants in the United States to their elderly relatives in Ghana. To achieve this objective, a convenience sample of 124 Ghanaian immigrants who resided in a large metropolitan area in the southern United States was surveyed. Study results reveal that the dominant type of eldercare provided was emotional care, but special circumstances in elderly people’s lives, such as serious financial problems may significantly increase their chances of receiving financial support. For caregivers, their levels of income significantly determined the level of financial support provided to their elderly relatives and how often they visited them. It was also found that there are always some siblings left in Ghana to take care of the physical needs of elderly parents in the absence of those who have migrated. Elderly people having multiple migrant adult children or relatives were more likely to receive financial support from multiple sources. Factors contributing to immigrants supporting elders in Ghana included feelings of high obligation toward elderly relatives, readiness to show love and appreciation for elderly relatives, and acceptance of eldercare as a moral obligation for all adult children. Overall, there was evidence to conclude that most immigrants provided care to their elderly relatives and that most were influenced by the social and cultural tenets that underlie elder caregiving in Ghanaian society. Implications of the study for social work research include the importance of further exploration of factors that might result in reduction in the care immigrants provide to their non-migrant elderly relatives, and replication of the current study with the view of explaining the inability of both elderly relatives’ and immigrants’ vulnerabilities to predict level of care. Given the possible psychological distress associated with caregiving and its effect on immigrants’ time and financial resources, social work practitioners need to be sensitive to the financial and emotional aspects of long distance caregiving by providing services to caregivers who may need them. Policy implications include maximizing remittances by reducing transaction cost and using remittance as leverage for financial grants for family investments.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2009

Included in

Social Work Commons