– In the study we have focused on the relatives, but we have also studied the couple and the situation they are in together because they affects the each other, says Jenni Riekkola, PhD student at Luleå University of Technology, who studied how elderly family care workers experience involvement in everyday life when they live in a life situation using short-term care.
Responsibility is a challenge
Family care workers have an important role as the number of elderly people is increasing, not only in Sweden but throughout the world. Short-term care is a way to support the elderly's health, well-being and their desire to live at home together. When using short-term care, the couple lives alternately together and separated, which means a changing life situation for them. From a participatory perspective, the study is important as participation plays an important part in the health and well-being of the elderly.
– Being responsible for everyday life is a challenge for the relatives. They value their shared life story, they are support for the partner in everyday life and use different strategies to enable activities, says Jenni Riekkola.
Debt and bad conscience
The study showed that family care workers struggled with time for recovery and own activities, while dealing with changes in social relations and feeling safe with social services. In the use of short-term care, the family care worker finds it difficult to transfer important knowledge and strategies that worked in everyday life to short-term care.
– It becomes a complex situation for the family care worker who needs recovery and time for his or hers own activities to be able to feel good. At the same time, many feel guilt and bad conscience that the partner needs to move out of their home. They also feel worried that the partner is not doing something meaningful and that the staff is insufficient, says Jenni Riekkola.
It is important that short-term accommodation not only becomes a relocation site, but the content is important. It is also important that the information exchange between short-term care and family care workers work in a good way.
Knowledge leads to improved situation
Studying elderly couples adds new knowledge in the research already available on how family care workers experience the use of short-term care. In the study, 12 family care workers participated in repeated focus group interviews. The result shows the need to see the whole couple and their life story, as a wider perspective is captured on their situation and create the conditions for the right support for those who affect their health, well-being and participation in everyday life. The results also show that there is a need to broaden the focus on the family care worker, so that it not only covers their care work for the related, but also the consideration of their own activities and thus their health and well-being.
– This is significant because it can lead to that the couples situation is affected and thus the possibilities for joint residents, says Jenni Riekkola, who conducts further studies on older peers' involvement in everyday life, for example from professional perspective.