The Journal of Aging and Social Change offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Aging & Social Change Research Network.
In Sweden, eligibility to move to a nursing home is usually based on an individual needs assessment. In 2012, an amendment to the Social Services Act was enacted, giving persons with residential care the right to live with a spouse in the nursing home, even if the spouse is relatively healthy and does not need nursing care. In this article, two contrasting case studies of cohabiting couples are presented. These case studies are based on field observations and qualitative interviews with the couples and staff in two nursing homes in two Swedish municipalities. The article shows that local municipal guidelines, establishing who has the right to help and care, affect the ways that both the staff and the couple talk about the spouse’s rights and roles as a coresident in the nursing home. In the two cases, there were also different staff attitudes about the spouse’s need for support in the role as spousal caregiver.
In my research, I have been interested in studying informal caring among older couples. Another underlying theme has been how policy affects older people's care context in different ways.
In 2016, I received a project grant from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE), to study the Swedish cohabitation guarantee. This guarantee entitles older persons needing residential care the right to cohabit with a spouse in a nursing home. Central issues in this project are the ambiguities at the intersection of the family life and institutional living, as well as in the intersection of formal and informal caring.
This article published in the Journal of Aging and Social Change was my first publication for this project. It fills a knowledge gap as the first study about spouses as co-residents (not visitors) to a partner in a nursing home. The results are an example of how organization and policy factors affect people at an individual level.
I have been met by such positive feedback after publishing this article, which strengthens my conviction of the importance of this field and the need for a family perspective in the study of old age care. As the population becomes older, couples live longer lives together. This is seen in the increasing number of golden weddings throughout the globe. But the extended lifespan also opens new family settings that have not been studied before – among them the possibility for couples to have the nursing home as their place of residence.
—Cristina Joy Torgé
Patrick Burden, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.73–82
Kathy Black and Kathyrn Hyer, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.59-71
Orla Collins and Joe Bogue, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 4, Issue 3-4, pp.1–12
Andy Cochrane, Sinéad McGilloway, Mairéad Furlong, and Michael Donnelly, The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, 13–23