Relational aspects of mastery for frail, older adults: The role of informal caregivers in the care process

Deborah Lambotte*, Martinus J. M. Kardol, Birgitte Schoenmakers, Bram Fret, A-S Smetcoren, Ellen E. De Roeck, Michael Van der Elst, Liesbeth De Donder, S. Dury, E. Dierckx, D. Duppen, D. Verte, L. J. Hoeyberghs, N. De Witte, S. Engelborghs, P. P. De Deyn, J. De Lepeleire, A. van der Vorst, G. A. R. Zijlstra, G. I. J. M. KempenJ. M. G. A. Schols, D-SCOPE Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Frail, older care recipients are often thought of as individuals with a decreased mastery of everyday life skills. Various authors have proposed to acknowledge a relational dimension of mastery, defined as the ability to maintain control over one's life with the help of others. This study explores how frail, older adults experience relational aspects of mastery and the role of their informal caregivers in maintaining these aspects of mastery over the care process. Qualitative interviews (N=121) were conducted in 2016 with potentially frail, community-dwelling older adults participating in the Detection, Support and Care for Older people: Prevention and Empowerment (D-SCOPE) project. A secondary analysis of 65 interviews reveals that, according to frail, older adults, informal caregivers contribute in various ways to the preservation of their mastery. This differs across the four elements of care: caring about (attentiveness), taking care of (responsibility), care-giving (competence), and care-receiving (responsiveness). However, in some cases, older adults experienced a loss of mastery; for example, when informal caregivers did not understand their care needs and did not involve them in the decision, organisation, and provision of care. A relational dimension of mastery needs to be acknowledged in frail, older care recipients since stimulating mastery is a crucial element for realising community care objectives and person-centred and integrated care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-641
Number of pages10
JournalHealth & Social Care in the Community
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • informal care
  • older adults
  • qualitative research
  • relational aspects of mastery
  • secondary analysis
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