Caring errors at home: an Action for awareness and solutions


With the growing number of people living longer, it is becoming clear that the ‘Care Economy’ is a crucial component of the welfare state. By 2030, the number of people aged 60 years or over is projected to grow to 1,4 billion. By 2050, the world’s population of people aged 60 years and older will double (2,1 billion) according to the latest data from the World Health Organisation.

The ‘Care Economy’ is an emerging new field due to population aging and the increase of non-communicable diseases. It consists of paid and non-paid services that support caregiving in all its forms for people in need of care and assistance such as domestic chores whilst taking care of older persons and those who are ill or living with disabilities.

The purpose of the movement is to improve the physical, social, and emotional well-being of older people, disabled individuals, and other co-dependent groups. Ensuring the provision of safe care at home and helping people to stay in their housing for as long as possible are the most pressing current challenges. Caregiving at home has increased in the complexity of care and intensity which augments the risk of making errors impacting both, recipients’ health, and caregivers’ well-being. In most cases, home care is provided by family members, usually women, which enlarges the gender gap.

Why BetterCare COST Action?

Researchers are working to highlight the detrimental effects of isolation on caregivers providing care at home. The findings underscore that isolation may lead to avoidable harm, adversely affecting both the quality of healthcare provided and the well-being of caregivers. Recent studies emphasise the physical and psychological toll on caregivers, along with the increased likelihood of inadequate risk management. Notably, the burden of isolation disproportionately falls on women, often family members of the care recipients, who may also face economic dependence.

The prevalence of caring errors within the home setting exceeds previous estimations, for example, informal caregivers are still unaware of the precautions to use medications safely. This is prompting a call to action to raise awareness and address pertinent issues such as the impact on patient safety, discussions on preventive measures and post-error interventions, and the exploration of technological solutions. Legal, ethical, psycho-socio-cultural, and economic perspectives will be integral to the debates and analyses.

That is why a new research network was born in Autumn 2023, dedicated to having a deeper look at this current societal challenge. BetterCare COST Action, as indicated by his name, aims to collect scientific knowledge and share perspectives and best practices on the prevention of caregiver errors that may occur. This collaborative network of researchers and expert practitioners counts more than 161 members spread over 37 countries.

Safe caregiving at home

“Caring for others is not a new phenomenon. It has been a core aspect of human existence throughout history. However, aging populations, the desire to remain at home for as long as possible, and policies promoting deinstitutionalization in social and healthcare settings have made home care increasingly complex. This places greater demands on informal caregivers, often family members, who must acquire additional skills. BetterCare presents an excellent opportunity to initiate a discussion on creating safe environments within homes for managing medications, performing maneuvers, and caregiving practices. Our goal is to ensure that recipients receive high-quality care and that caregivers maintain confidence in their ability to provide safe and effective care.”

Jose Mira, Chair of BetterCare

BetterCare aims to develop new mechanisms and channels to ensure that informal caregivers receive adequate training to perform their duties effectively. The network seeks to generate innovative procedures and mechanisms that facilitate safe caregiving at home, even for individuals living in remote areas away from major urban centers. Finally, BetterCare aspire to extend patient safety policies beyond institutional settings to address the growing demand for home-based care.

To address these issues, BetterCare will open debates, analyse educational standards, and develop guidelines and case studies based on caregiver stories. This way caregivers, families, and other professionals will be better equipped with access to high-quality and affordable care services while improving working conditions and work-life balance for carers.

BetterCare will also work to establish guidelines and standards that reflect and enhance the quality of care provided at home. Emphasising the importance of citizen engagement, the network invites all stakeholders to participate in discussions where their needs and beliefs can be shared and considered.

BetterCare network members

Additional information

View the Action website

View the network website

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European Care Strategy