The care-receivers perspective: how care dependent people struggle with accepting help from family-members, friends and neighbours.

F. H. Bredewold, L. H. Verplanke, T. Kampen, E. H. Tonkens, W.G.J. Duyvendak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In many countries in north‐western Europe, the welfare state is changing, and governments expect a great deal of informal care. In the Netherlands, citizens are also increasingly expected to rely on informal instead of professional care. In this study, we aim to determine to what extent Dutch care‐dependent people want to rely on social network members and what reasons they raise for accepting or refusing informal care. To answer this question, we observed 65 so‐called ‘kitchen table talks’, in which social workers assess citizens’ care needs and examine to what extent relatives, friends and/or neighbours can provide help and care. We also interviewed 50 professionals and 30 people in need of care. Our findings show that a great deal of informal care is already given (in 46 out of 65 cases), especially between people who have a close emotional bond. For this reason, people in need of care often find it difficult to ask their family members, friends or neighbours for extra assistance. People are afraid to overburden their family members, friends or neighbours. Another reason people in need of care raise against informal care is that they feel ashamed of becoming dependent. Although the government wants to change the meaning of autonomy by emphasising that people are autonomous when they rely on social network members, people who grew up in the heyday of the welfare state feel embarrassed and ashamed when they are not able to reciprocate. Our findings imply that policymakers and social professionals need to reconsider the idea that resources of informal care are inexhaustible and that citizens can look after each other much more than they already do. It is important that social policymakers approach the codes and norms underlying social relations more cautiously because pressure on these relations can have negative effects.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2019

Cite this