Facts about carers and caring in Sweden

Who is a carer?

Carers refer to family, close friends, significant others or neighbours, in short - anyone who provides a variety of emotional and practical help, support or care to people that suffer from a long-term illness or disability. This caring is generally unpaid and carried out on a voluntary basis.

How many carers are there?

Close to every fifth person (approximately 1.3 million – in 2012) in Sweden over 18 years of age give care, help or support to someone. 900 000 of these people are in paid employment. Caring is common in all age groups but most common between 45-65 years of age.

  • Carers between 30-44 years mainly give care and support to children
  • Carers between 45-65 give mainly care and support to aged parents
  • Cares older than 65 years provide more extensive care to their spouse or partner.

Overall, there are no major gender differences concerning caring when it comes to time and frequency. Women's support is mainly overseeing the caring situation, providing/arranging company and personal care while men give practical help and financial support.

Health, life quality and work

The more extensive the care provided by carers the more their quality of life is adversely affected.

  • Women experience to a greater extent that caregiving affects their quality of life negatively.
  • The opportunity for gainful employment and studying is affected by caregiving especially in the age group 30-44 years old and women are more affected than men.
  • 100 000 carers have had to shorten their paid work hours or quit their employment due to caregiving.

On the other hand, most of the carers say that they feel good about giving care to their significant other. Carers' quality of life is enhanced when they know that the person they care for is provided with good health and social care by people whom they trust.

Carers' preferences for support

There are many people that don't see themselves as a carer and sometimes it takes time to realize that you are a carer or in a caring situation. Carers' need of support changes over time and that is why it is important to adapt the support to the specific individual carer. A first step could be helping carers to be aware of their situation and informing them about what kind of help and support they can receive from the municipalities, organisations or local community to better cope with their everyday life. Carers themselves usually request information, education and support. They want to gain more knowledge about different illnesses, diseases and treatment of their significant other. For those who provide personal care, carers often request skills training to better equip them to carry out nursing tasks. They also want to know what kinds of help and support are available to them and how to get it. Carers providing care on a regular basis often require respite care together with practical help with caring. In addition, appropriate adaptations to the home environment to help facilitate daily living. Emotional support such as an understanding person to talk to is equally important.

Carers as experts

Experienced carers often know best about their own caring situation and what kinds of support they prefer. However, most of all they understand what the person they care for needs most. Carers can provide helpful information to health and social care practitioners and therefore it is important for practitioners to cooperate with the family to be able to give the best possible care.

References

National Board of Health & Welfare Sweden (2012). Relatives who provide care to a significant other: Scope and consequences, (In Swedish). Stockholm: NBHWS.

Brereton, L., & Nolan, M. (2003). Seeking partnerships between family and professional carers: stroke as a case in point. In: Nolan, M., Lundh, U., Grant, G. & Keady, J. (editors). Partnerships in Family care: understanding the caregiving career. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Brown, J., Nolan, M. & Davies., S. (2001). Who's the expert? redefining lay and professional relationships. In: Nolan, M., Davies, S. & Grant, G. (editors). Working with older people and their families: key issues in policy and practice. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Senast uppdaterad 2017-02-02 av Emil Svensson, ansvarig utgivare Lennart Magnusson