You never walk alone: An exploratory study of the needs and burden of an informal care group
Little is known about the dynamics of a group of people giving informal care together. The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics of an informal care group, the obstacles the informal care group experiences, the needs and desires they have and how the informal care group can be supported by general practitioners (GPs) and other professionals. Nine informal care groups were interviewed based on a questionnaire that was preapproved by the six Flemish official informal caregiver organisations. The results were analysed using open coding. A survey was conducted among 137 caregivers who were part of a group. Univariate analysis was performed. Informal care group usually consist of close relatives of the patient, with often the partner of the patient as the main caregiver. The size of the informal care group depends on the size of the family. If there are more caregivers in a group, the perceived burden of the individual caregiver decreases. The support of the other caregivers in the group increases capacity. The cooperation and agreements are often spontaneously organised and few problems are reported. There is a large variation in the expectations of support from the general practitioner, ranging from availability in emergencies to information about the possibilities of formal home care. This study depicts a positive image of the informal care group. Being part of a caregiver group both decreases burden and increases capacity. Informal care groups usually function well without a need for formal agreements within the group, and they rarely need a third party to coordinate with them or intervene.
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