Family care of the elderly

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Key Conclusions

  • The demand for dependent care could be reduced by focusing on improving elderly people’s health and independence, and this must begin when they are younger;
  • There are major differences in the situation, and preferences, of different age groups in the older population. Consideration should also be given to inequalities among the elderly population in terms of income, access to services and information;
  • Focusing upon what elderly people have to give, as well as on their support needs, will be vital in the future. Within that diverse and increasingly large group there is a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience;
  • Assistance for family carers should form an integral part of the objectives and responsibilities of services and organisations looking after elderly people;
  • Member States should be encouraged to develop health and social policies for elderly people which take into account the needs of family carers;
  • More attention should be paid to the job creation potential of care work and responsibilities; Elderly people themselves can be instrumental in discussing and designing new ways of meeting their needs;
  • The demand for residential care appears to be increasing as a result of changes in demography, family mobility and long-term health care needs. Some form of institutional care for some period of time will increasingly be a necessary option.

Family Care of the Elderly

Foundation studies since 1987 have focused on the situation of those who provide most of the care to dependent older people – their families, especially spouses and daughters. The studies have sought to systematically document the needs and experiences of family carers across the EU and to assess the impact of caring on daily life. In particular, eleven national studies examined policy development and initiatives to assist family carers, with a view to identifying what can be done to improve the quality of life for carers, as well as the cared-for.


Who Will Care: future prospects for family care of older people in the European Union (EF9525).
This report puts the care debate into the framework of recent research and analysis in the European Union. It documents and assesses key trends and developments, to outline a range of options for the future.
Available on request in EN & FR (print only).

Working and Caring: Developments at the workplace for family carers of disabled and older people (EF9605).
A conference report examing the effects of family care upon job opportunities and the quality of family life. It documents workplace initiatives designed to improve conditions for combining working and caring, and discusses the role of the different parties involved.
Available on request in EN, ES, FR (print only).

Family care of dependent older people in the European Community (EF9327).
In all countries of the EU, most care and support for older people is provided by their family members, particularly spouses and daughters. This report, based upon literature anaylses and interviews with family carers, documents the characteristics of this care, the problems experienced and help received by the carers..
Available on request in EN & FR (print only).