In For Care

An informal care café in Flanders

01 November 2018 - Published by Ragni Leifson
In the city of Aalst, a travelling café lets informal carers meet others in the same situation for learning and socializing.

Flanders counts more than 600,000 informal caregivers, people, young and old. These provide long-term and unpaid care for a family member, friend, acquaintance or neighbor.

In the city of Aalst, 144 out of 1 000 people over 65 are entitled to health insurance for informal- and home care. With this, Aalst comes in second place of the mayor cities in Flanders, after Genk. People living in Aalst provide more than average informal care, and also receive more informal care themselves.

In general, Informal carers say they need additional recognition and support, like for example contact with other informal caregivers, accessible information and psychological support.

Therefore, the city of Aalst has opened the informal care café De Palto together with the local service centers. The official opening of “De Palto” took place on the 2nd of October, and we had a chat with Heidi Tonnelier, project manager in the city of Aalst.

How did you get the idea to open informal care café?

– For the In For Care project, we looked for ways to support informal carers and to develop a new service. That's how we ended up with !DROPS, which is a social innovation agency for profit and non-profit organizations.

– Together with three local service centers, we put together a core group of informal carers. They have met four times in recent months to co-create the cafées and choose topics they would like to recieve more information about. This core group also has a central role in the organization of De Palto, and they welcome other informal caregivers. The name De Palto means "cloak" and refers to the name of an informal caregiver in Dutch.

Why are these cafées important?

– Firstly, not everyone is aware that they are informal caregivers. De Palto is a low-threshold way of making people more aware of this. Second, De Palto is not only a meeting place where informal carers can go to exchange stories in a relaxed atmosphere, but also a place to recieve information on the informal care premium, on home care and other relevant services, and lectures about specific diseases.

– De Palto is a travelling café that takes place monthly in one of the three local service centers. We organize the cafés at different times to give as many carers as possible the opportunity to join. Soon the informal care café will have a digital community as well, where informal carers can contact each other and a chatbot to request information.