According to low-paid caregivers in elderly care, poverty, racism, discrimination, gender inequality and debt are the most important, often concealed causes of their health problems. This has emerged from research by the ethics and law department of the Amsterdam UMC. APH researcher Saskia Duijs: "With the help of photographs, we were able to make these themes visible. We are literally standing still to themes that have remained hidden for too long."

“Wat je niet ziet” (What you don’t see) is the title of the book that Saskia Duijs' research group has presented on August 31. It is a special book, strikingly yellow, accessible to read and four probing photographs of four low-paid care workers in elderly care.

This study is the doctoral research project of APH researcher Saskia Duijs with the department Ethics, Law and Humanities of Amsterdam UMC, started four years ago. This study was financed by the knowledge program Gender & Health of ZonMw.

The characteristics of the study

In the first phase of this study, care workers and informal caregivers used photos of their (private) lives and work to illustrate why and how their health was under pressure. This method is called photo voice. Subsequently, some of them started interviewing colleagues across the country. This makes the research a participatory action research. In this way, the care workers also became the co-researchers.

Duijs: 'The photographs in the book criticize the invisibility of care in our society, and specifically the invisibility and low appreciation of care for the elderly. This causes many low-paid caregivers to experience that they are not seen and valued.'

Directions for solutions at 3 levels

The results of this research are relevant to the major social and political issues of the present day. The final chapter of the book therefore describes 'directions for solutions' at the individual, organizational and political levels. Most of all, the researchers hope that the portraits and stories in this book will trigger a thought process. After all, 'letting yourself be moved is the first step towards change', says Duijs.

Read the full article in Dutch here: De verborgen oorzaken van gezondheidsproblemen bij laagbetaalde ouderenzorgmedewerkers-ZonMw Digitale Publicaties

Saskia Duijs is the PhD candidate of associate professor Petra Verdonk at the department of Ethics, Law and Humanities of Amsterdam UMC. Duijs aims to obtain her PhD on this project.