Patterns of informal caregiving and lessons from the Swedish panorama of care

Prof. Magnus Jegermalm, Ph.D.
Ersta Sköndal University College, Stockholm

This presentation discusses informal caregiving and the panorama of care provision in Sweden from the informal carers’ perspective. We will consider informal care, publicly financed services, for-profit agencies and voluntary organizations. The discussion is based on results from a national survey that was repeated four times in the period 1992-2009. In the 1990s, the figures were stable, but from the late 1990s to 2009 there seems to have been a dramatic increase in the extent of informal caregiving. In the study from 2009 most cared-for persons with minor needs living in a separate household are helped also by others, but only a tenth use public services or other providers. About half of cared-for persons with major needs living in a separate household receive care also from other informal carers as well as public services. Only one in ten of them relied on no one else beyond the carer interviewed. Among intra household carers – a minority of all persons cared for - it was common that the carer was alone in his/her commitment, without any contributions from public services or others. For the large majority of informal carers it is not a solitary undertaking as the commitment is often shared with family members and others and/or public services. Our results suggest that voluntary organizations in Sweden are not (yet) increasingly involved as providers of welfare services. Although our results are based on rather small samples they suggest that frequently used ideal types about complementarity or substitution may need to be further elaborated to better reflect the complex interplay between informal care and public services (and potential other providers). The panorama of care analysed here confirms earlier studies showing that informal care plays a major role in Sweden, a country with universal welfare schemes. But our analysis also suggests that the proportionally small group of Swedish carers with substantial commitments and frequent needs for support – typically the iconic spouse carers – are maybe not helped by sweeping generalisations and stereotypes about carers at large.



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