Background and Objectives: In Austria and many other countries, the vast majority of care is provided by family and friends. However, the personal health, social and economic costs of caring for relatives can be considerable, and the pressure on informal care is growing as societies age. Thus, it is essential for sustainable care arrangements to monitor and sustain the quality of life (QoL) of informal carers. The objective of this paper is to investigate factors associated with carer QoL in Austria, thus eliciting potential levers for informal carer support policies.
Data and Method: For the analysis, we used data from about 300 standardized face-to-face interviews with Austrian informal carers of persons in need of care using home care services. Our regression model analyzed the relationship between the quality of life of informal carers on the one hand and characteristics of these carers, the person in need of care, and the home care arrangement on the other. A preference-weighted score for different dimensions of care-related quality of life based on ASCOT-Carer (Adult Social Care Outcomes Toolkit for Carers) captures the informal carers' quality of life (the dependent variable). The choice of explanatory variables related to the informal carer risk model.
Results: The results of the estimation indicated that personal health problems and an increased need for care of the cared-for person were negatively associated with the quality of life of informal carers. Low cognitive performance of the person cared for also tainted carers' quality of life. Time off, time for oneself and being sufficiently socially involved was positively associated with quality of life. This is also the case when informal carers were very satisfied with the care services used by family members (regardless of whether they are government or non-government services) and when informal caregivers themselves use supportive services.
Conclusions: From a care policy perspective, the results highlight that preventive health measures for informal caregivers can be an effective starting point for improving their quality of life. Carer leave and other measures to relieve the caregiver's time burden also promise to be effective to this end. Beyond freeing time, it is essential that positive social relationships endure. Further, care services provided to the person cared-for have the potential to make a difference to the quality of life of relatives. This, however, appears to depend on the interfaces between service providers and informal caregivers. There is a role to play for new technologies in all these regards.