To maintain control: Negotiations in everyday life of older people who can no longer manage on their own.

University dissertation from Göteborg University

Abstract: The general aim of this thesis is to reach a more insightful understanding of how help is actually worked out in the everyday life of older people when they can no longer manage on their own. The overall research question is how individuals, representing different perspectives in the help arrangement process, think and act in order to organise needed help as well as how they may themselves apprehend the functions of the help. It is a qualitative study, containing four papers looking at this issue from different perspectives: the older persons themselves, their next of kin who provide help and the municipal care managers who make decisions on formal help. The empirical material consists of qualitative interviews and participant observations with care managers, qualitative interviews with older people applying for formal eldercare, follow-up interviews with some of them and qualitative interviews with next of kin who provide help. The analysis of the material adopts an empirically oriented approach, involving several steps from open to focused coding. Earlier research and theory guided the analysis. The results show that older people strive to maintain control over their everyday life (Paper I). When they can no longer manage unaided, they use various strategies to maintain control and the feeling of autonomy. Well-functioning formal and informal networks (Paper III) allow individuals to sustain autonomy and control in old age even when they have to depend on help from others. The care managers endeavour to make both ends meet in the decision process (Paper II). They develop various techniques and struck a balance between diverse demands and expectations. Helping an older relative is connected with a multiplicity of motives and experiences (Paper IV). The next of kin act both as bridges and buffers between their older relative and formal eldercare. This thesis emphasises the important functions of both formal and informal help to older people. To outline the working forms and methods of collaboration between older people and their informal and formal support networks is an important challenge that needs further attention.

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