The frail elderly, family network and public home help services : a pilot study of the parties' perception of the help and their reciprocal relationships

Eric Olsson, Bengt Ingvad, Karin Bondesson

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The family with the elderly and the home help workers’ team constitute two organisations,
which meet in the care work. In this context the family is extended and often constitute not
only members from the nuclear family but also other members of the network of relatives,
whom take part in the care of the elderly. The extended family may in some cases include
four generations (Finch & Mason, 1993).
Home-help for elderly people have expanded in Sweden during the period 1960 - 1980.
This was due partly upon the prevailing ideology that it is important for frail elderly to stay in
their own homes. Due to this expansion the local communities have developed their public
home-care organisations. Different kinds of autonomous group organisation predominate
(Olsson et al, 1995). Small work groups take responsibility for home help service in local
areas. Home-helpers organise their job themselves, exchange experiences and give each other
emotional support.
In Sweden both home care and institutional care of the elderly has decreased during the
1980th and 1990th in spite of the fact that the proportion elderly over 80 years (4,5 % of the
total population) has increased 60 % since 1980. Twenty-two per cent of the women and 16 %
of the men over 80 were cared for in their own home 1996. This development is said to have
caused relatives to care for their frail elderly in the homes side by side by the home help
services in an increasing degree (Johansson, 1991; Szebehely, 1998). Public care and service
has an important impact on the interaction pattern between family members (Hendriksen,
1989; Johansson, 1999; Bass m fl, 1999). Home care may serve as an intervention that
influences the health, well-being and life quality of the elderly and other family members.
This intervention may have positive as well as negative effects. Problems and conflicts may
arise in the interaction between the family members and between the family and the public
help services (see McGoldrick & Gerson, 1989). We need more knowledge about these
In a research project1 the family and the home help services are studied as two
organisations, which interact in the care of the elderly. We start with the hypothesis that the
relation between the parties will have an impact on the character and quality of the care. We
also think that the quality of the interaction will have an impact on the health and wellbeing of
the elderly (see Olsson, 1991, 1998; Olsson & Ingvad, 1999).
Titel på värdpublikationWorking paper-serien
FörlagLunds universitet : Socialhögskolan
ISBN (tryckt)91-89604-06-7
StatusPublished - 2001



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