Stability, adaptability and fragility of the elderly care "configurations" over time: in Belgium, 1994-2002
Unité dAnthropologie et de Sociologie Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium,
In the ageing Europe of today, one of the key issues is to ensure sustainable community care for the elderly. If the family remains, most of the time, the first and the main care provider, the care "configuration" will depend on the needs (health status, age, etc.), the resources (presence of spouse, children, formal care services, etc.) of the elderly and their evolution over time (declining health or acute disease, lost of the partner, etc.).
The originality of this paper is twice. First, it uses Belgian panel data to study informal care. Second, it studies changes of care "configuration" rather than changes in a specific care characteristic.
This research uses nine waves of the Panel Study of Belgian Households (1994-2002) to study the determinants of changes in family care configuration over time. The study sample is restricted to the 639 panel-respondents aged 65 or more in 1994 and having received care from their spouse or children at any wave of the survey.
In the first part, we will present and discuss a typology of care "configuration" based on the number of effective carers, the kind of activities concerned (ADL, IADL, both), the relationship with the elderly (spouse, daughter, son) and the use or not of formal care as a complement.
In the second part, we will try to explain why some care configurations are more stable over time than others. We will also try to identify the determinants of changes of the unstable configurations and to assess whether changes can be considered as indicator of adaptability or fragility of the informal care network.
Preliminary analyses show that 85 percent of the sample received care for more than one wave. Among them, 79 percent experiment changes in one or another care characteristic. Changes in care type (informal, formal or mixed) are the most frequent. The number of carers tends to increase with the intensity of care "between waves" care division (replacement of a sole carer by another) is less frequent than "within wave" care division (repartition of care load at a given wave).