How to survive as informal care worker?

Tineke Abma on Radio 1, Radar, NPO, March 16, Hilversum

In the Netherlands with the enactment of the Social Support Act in 2015 the government aims to substitute formal care with informal care. This policy measure is accompanied by a discourse of participation that emphasises that we all have to participate in informal care responsibilities. A team of researchers (Tineke Abma, Saskia Duijs, Petra Verdonk) from the dept. of Medical Humanities VUmc tries to gain an understanding of the experiences of informal caregivers who work as paid care worker in elderly care institutions. How do they survive?

Tineke Abma presented preliminary findings from their study, entitled Negotiating Health, and responded to whaps-app messages by the audience of Radar, a consumer programme on Radio 1, NPO. She says:

We found Informal care work is heavily underestimated and gendered. Women do more informal care work than men. Men do the tasks: the groceries, administration and other practical chores. Women have the responsibilities: engage in physical care, for example washing or bathing, and emotional care, such as listening to stories of loneliness, engaging with professional care takers and trying to organize and manage professional care systems. This work is typically unlimited, unplannable and places a greater emotional burden upon woman.

How do they survive? We see female informal care workers cutting down their working hours, or starting on their own to be more flexible and autonomous. But what does this mean for their economic self-sufficiency in the long run? It is expected that they share responsibilities and tasks within the family, control their own boundaries and ask for support. Often times this is not how it works. Women carry on as long as they can. They do not know about financial compensation offered by the municipality, and services like respite houses or tickets to go out often do not match their needs (they may simply do not have time). We therefore recommend that municipalities invest in articulating the needs for support among informal care givers taking into account the gendered nature of informal care work.