Paradoxes in the care of older people in the community: Walking a tightrope

B. Janssen, M.R.F. van Regenmortel, T.A. Abma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The expansion of the older population suggests that there will be significant numbers in need of care and support in their own home environment. Yet, little is known about the kind of situations professionals are faced with and how they intervene in the living environment of older people. Qualitative data were collected over a period of 1.5 years from a multi-disciplinary community-based geriatric team in the Netherlands, and participant observations carried out. Forty-two cases discussed within the team meetings were analysed. Results demonstrate that providing care to older people is a dynamic process and revolves around various paradoxes as experienced by professionals. This is illustrated by presenting three paradoxes that emerged within the data: respecting autonomy versus preserving safety; the care needs of the care recipients versus the capacity of their informal carers to cope; and holding a formal orientation versus a tailored orientation on tasks. Providing care in the home environment of older people requires from professionals a continuous anticipation of (un)expected evolutions in situations of their care recipients. In order to optimally support older people professionals need ‘professional discretion’. They must be supported to systematically reflect on and legitimize their intervention strategies.
Keywords: Older People, Long-term Care, Health and Social Care Professionals, Empowerment, Community Care Practice, Paradoxes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
JournalEthics and Social Welfare
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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