The general aim of this dissertation is to describe and analyse patterns of informal care and support for carers in Sweden. One specific aim is to study patterns of informal care from a broad population perspective in terms of types of care and types of carer. A typology of four different care categories based on what carers do revealed that women were much more likely than men to be involved at the ‘heavy end’ of caring, i.e. providing personal care in combination with a variety of other caring tasks. Men were more likely than women to provide some kind of practical help (Study I).
Another aim is to investigate which support services are received by which types of informal caregiver. Relatively few informal caregivers in any care category were found to be receiving any kind of support from municipalities or voluntary organizations, for example training or financial assistance (Study II).
The same study also examines which kinds of help care recipients receive in addition to that provided by informal carers. It appears that people in receipt of personal care from an informal caregiver quite often also receive help from the public care system, in this case mostly municipal services. However, the majority of those receiving personal, informal care did not receive any help from the public care system or from voluntary organizations or for-profit agencies (Study II).
The empirical material in studies I and II comprises survey data from telephone interviews with a random sample of residents in the County of Stockholm aged between 18 and 84.
In a number of countries there is a growing interest among social scientists and social policymakers in examining the types of support services that might be needed by people who provide informal care for older people and others. A further aim of the present dissertation is therefore to describe and analyse the carer support that is provided by municipalities and voluntary organizations in Sweden. The dissertation examines whether this support is aimed directly or indirectly at caregivers and discusses whether the Swedish government’s special financial investment in help for carers actually led to any changes in the support provided by municipalities and voluntary organisations. The main types of carer support offered by the municipalities were payment for care-giving, relief services and day care. The chief forms of carer support provided by the voluntary organizations were support groups, training groups, and a number of services aimed primarily at the elderly care recipients (Study III).
Patterns of change in municipal carer support could be discerned fairly soon. The Swedish government’s special allocation to municipalities and voluntary organisations appears to have led to an increase in the number of municipalities providing direct support for carers, such as training, information material and professional caregiver consultants. On the other hand, only minor changes could be discerned in the pattern of carer support services provided by the voluntary organizations. This demonstrates stability and the relatively low impact that policy initiatives seem to have on voluntary organizations as providers (Study IV).
In studies III and IV the empirical material consists of survey data from mail questionnaires sent to municipalities and voluntary organizations in the County of Stockholm.
In the fields of social planning and social work there appears to be a need to clarify the aims of support services for informal carers. Should the support be direct or indirect? Should it be used to supplement or substitute caregivers? In this process of reappraisal it will be important to take the needs of both caregivers and care recipients into account when developing existing and new forms of support. How informal caregivers and care recipients interact with the care system as a whole is undeniably a fertile field for further research.