Negotiating Caregiver Responsibility in Assisted Living

By: Cristina Joy Torgé  

The co-habitation guarantee in Swedish eldercare involves the right of older couples to cohabit in assisted living facilities even if only one of them has the need for residential care. Assisted living residences are sites for advanced care. However, when an apartment in the facility becomes a home for a couple, there is a boundary-crossing of care practices in the domestic sphere and sphere of formal care. This study is based on a qualitative research project involving participant observations and 32 interviews with couples and staff in five assisted living residences in Sweden. Previous analysis showed that although the weight of care responsibility is on the staff, the accompanying spouse’s caregiving career continues. This review focuses on apparent differences in the caregiving expectations by staff, where negotiation of care responsibility may be gendered. Both accompanying wives and husbands were very involved in caregiving before the transition to residential care. However, the accompanying wives expressed struggling more than the husbands in finding and delimiting their new caregiver role in relation to the staff. The staff also more clearly expressed the need to support the accompanying husbands in the family carer role in the facility. Keeping in mind that the study is based on a small number of cases, these results, based on coding and constant comparison of the couple- and staff interviews, are nevertheless striking and show how the caregiver role is negotiated.

Couple, Assisted living, Residential care, Informal carers, Gender
Public Policy and Public Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Cristina Joy Torgé

Senior Lecturer, Institute of Gerontology, Jönköping University, Sweden

Joy Torgé has a Ph.D. in Ageing and Later Life and is a Senior lecturer in Gerontology at Jönköping University. She has an interdisciplinary background in the subjects Philosophy, Applied Ethics and Public Health. She is principal investigator for the project ”Family Life and Informal Care within Eldercare: Couples with Unequal Care Needs in Assisted Living”. The aim of this project is to add knowledge about family life and care at the intersection of private and the public spheres, particularly when couples with unequal health needs move to an assisted living residence together.