9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN01 Ageing in Europe

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Ageing and Migration Building II, C5.08

The Nature and Dynamics of the Relationship between Migrant Carers and Older People

Migrant care workers make a substantial contribution to older adult care in many developed nations. Even in this uncertain economic climate, the reliance on foreign carers appears to be unwavering. However, an understanding of the relationship dynamics between migrant carers and the host country care recipients is absent from research, practice and policy domains. With an increased emphasis on person-centred care for older people, the relationship between the care provider and the care recipient is often considered to be a key determinant of the quality of provision. Factors embedded within the socio-cultural and socio-linguistic perspectives of different nationalities mean that the nature of the caring relationship is likely to be influenced by migrant carers caring for older people. The direction of that influence, and the subsequent implications for the experiences of migrant carers and the older people they care for, are unknown. This paper explores the relationship between older people and their migrant carers to address these knowledge gaps.

The research draws on data gathered for Ireland as a part of the cross-national study on the "role of migrant health and social care workers in ageing societies". Ireland´s past history of emigration, the relatively homogeneous older adult population (with respect to ethnicity and religiosity) and the recent development of inward migration, offer an interesting context for this research. Information was collected using semi-structured interviews with 40 migrant carers (nurses and care assistants), semi-structured telephone interviews with 16 employers and three focus groups with older adults (prospective and current users of care).

The findings indicate that the relationship between migrant carers and older people is complex, with both challenges and opportunities. Difficulties around acceptance are concentrated in initial periods and underlined by issues of communication and cultural competence. Some discrimination towards carers was evident, but typically did not characterise the carer-care user relationships. Conversely, a strong theme of reciprocity and kinship, and evidence of shared experience with respect to migration, emerged from the research. The findings underscore the importance of the caring relationship and the richness of the interaction between an older person and their carer in a multicultural caring environment.