Bound in an Imbalanced Relationship: Family Caregivers and Migrant Live-In Care-Workers of Frail Older Persons in Israel

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield*, Hava Golander

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Migrant care-workers (MCWs) are often the main caregivers for frail older persons. We examined the complex relationship between MCWs and primary family caregivers (PFCs) in Israel to better understand how MCWs and PFCs perceive the formal and informal nature of their relationship. Given the high prevalence of two-income families who are unavailable for caregiving, the relationships among MCWs, PFCs, and care-recipients warrants examination, particularly when PFCs serve as managers of care and the care-recipient has dementia. The sample of 116 MCWs and 117 PFCs included 92 MCW–PFC pairs who were part of a larger study on home care for frail older persons. A mixed-methods approach was used involving quantitative (correlations/paired t-tests) and qualitative (grounded theory framework) analyses conducted on data obtained from structured interviews. A significant correlation was found between ratings of the quality of the relationship by MCWs and PFCs, although PFCs rated it significantly more positively than MCWs. MCWs’ ratings of their relationship with the PFCs were significantly correlated with their ratings of the quality of their relationship with the care-recipient. Four main thematic categories emerged from the qualitative analysis: (1) communication, (2) dependence, (3) relationship quality, and (4) triad: MCW–PFC–care-recipient. For each theme, we present perspectives of MCWs and PFCs, reflecting either “closeness” or “distance” in their relationship. The findings highlight the complexity of such relationships, with the potential for a meaningful positive bond or mistrust or abuse. The study provides a basis for testing methods for ameliorating the negative experiences described by some participants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1116-1130
Number of pages15
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • community-dwelling older adults
  • family caregivers
  • interdependence
  • migrant care-workers
  • mixed methods


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