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Fortunate and fearful: emotions evoked by home-care policies for older people in Ireland

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This article examines the emotions of fear and feeling fortunate experienced by key actors in home-care services in Ireland. We take a relational approach to emotions; that is to say, an understanding that emotions are produced in social interactions and play an essential part in how people engage with, and respond to, long-term care policies. The study involved focus groups and in-depth interviews with 104 participants. Our findings show that the most vulnerable participants – service users and care workers on precarious contracts – feel fortunate or fearful about outcomes that had, or would have, a direct impact on them: respectively, having a good carer and obtaining job satisfaction, or losing a home-care package and not having enough work. Professionals were more likely to speak about luck and fear, not in relation to what could happen to them directly but in relation to the fate of service users and care workers. The unregulated home-care services in Ireland have influenced actors to construe their own and others’ participation in the system as increasingly individualised, where desired outcomes depend on one’s good luck or strong personal relationships. For the system to work properly trust needs to be present not only at the micro level of individual relationships but also at a system level. This could lead to a decline in emotions that centre on feeling fortunate and fearful, and an increase in expressions of trust and a sense of control by both care providers and care recipients.
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Keywords: emotions; fear; home care; luck; social policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Publication date: May 1, 2020

This article was made available online on April 8, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Fortunate and fearful: emotions evoked by home-care policies for older people in Ireland".

More about this publication?
  • Emotions and Society aims to publish high-quality, original peer-reviewed articles which advance theoretical and empirical understanding of emotions in social life. It is associated with the European Sociological Association's (ESA) Research Network on Sociology of Emotions (RN11), but seeks submissions from a wide range of international authors writing in this area. The sociology of emotions has developed unique perspectives on emotions that attend to their social construction and the ways in which they are embedded in social structures and inhere in social processes. The Journal seeks to expand the largely unexhausted potential for developing innovative approaches not only to emotions per se, but through it to the social generally. All methodological approaches to studying emotions are welcome, but they should demonstrate rigour and be framed in ways that will be of interest to sociologically inclined scholars.

    A key feature of the Journal will be to develop both a uniquely sociological perspective on emotions, while also engaging in interdisciplinary exchanges. This interdisciplinarity will emerge not only from the character of present scholarly debates on emotions, but from the diversity of disciplines represented in the ESA Research Network. We welcome submissions from neighbouring fields, especially cultural studies, history, philosophy and social psychology. Psychology of emotions is quite well represented in existing journals and papers will be considered only insofar as their focus is interactional rather than biological. The Journal seeks to publish articles based on original research into the social aspects of emotions and emotional life. This may include contributions to theoretical debates in the area. Substantial review articles may also be considered. Principally we are looking for theoretical or theoretically informed empirical papers that engage with key concepts and debates of interest to sociologists of emotion, even if they do so from outside the discipline.

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