Family carers in Switzerland

The aim of the population survey conducted as part of the promotional programme known as “Entlastungsangebote für pflegende Angehörige” (Respite services for family carers) is to help plug any research gaps in Switzerland. It will also pave the way for developing, planning and devising measures and packages to provide family carers with support and respite at various stages of their life.


Family carers have attracted a lot of attention from researchers, at an international level, over the past 30 years or so. Compared with other countries, however, Switzerland is lagging quite far behind in some aspects of research – partly through not being included in major international comparative studies. The situation of family carers is very complex and varies significantly from case to case. This can also be seen in the topics addressed by researchers to date, who have not just studied the state of health of the person cared for, but also the characteristics and circumstances of their family carers (e.g. gender, own state of health, employment status, time of life or the relationship between the two people). Previous research in Switzerland has tended to focus mainly on highly specific subgroups of family carers. The associated data does not really support any general conclusions about the needs of family carers during the various stages of their life. But this is precisely what is needed when it comes to the political decisions and measures required to ensure family carers in Switzerland can enjoy adequate support and respite.


As part of a nationwide and representative survey of the population, family carers are being asked in writing about their situation and their needs in terms of support and respite. People are to be selected at random from the register containing the resident Swiss population and written to accordingly (based on the sample frames for surveys of individuals and households proposed by the Federal Statistical Office). The family carers among them are to be asked to fill in a questionnaire and answer questions about the following areas:

  • Context and influencing factors (particularly aspects of the care situation and the person's individual circumstances)
  • Needs in terms of respite and support
  • Any use made of existing packages
  • Solutions for providing support and respite in line with needs and requirements

This quantitative survey will make it possible to record important demographic and situational aspects and analyse the individual subgroups concerned. The idea is not just to draw up profiles of those concerned, but also categorise their needs.

Focusing on family carers during various stages of their life
A representative survey of the population will make it possible to study family carers from a variety of social backgrounds and across the generations – from children through to senior citizens. The survey itself will be available in the three national languages of Switzerland (French, German and Italian), with the additional option of a plain language version for each language. This will ensure that those with limited reading or language skills (e.g. children or people originally from countries where other languages are spoken) can understand and fill in the questionnaire too. The questionnaire can be filled in online or as a paper version. What makes the project special is how family carers, from various age groups, will be consulted as experts throughout the research process, from putting together the questionnaire to assessing the results.

Project objectives

The results of the survey will undergo statistical assessment and then be put into context – as regards the current body of research (both for Switzerland and at an international level) and the structural situation in Switzerland. A kind of catalogue of requirements should emerge accordingly, with measures then derived from these for policymakers to consider. The results can also be used to develop what is on offer locally.

Project team

  • Careum Research: Prof. Dr. iur. Agnes Leu, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Otto, Prof. Dr. Iren Bischofberger,  Hannah Wepf, Nadja Kägi
  • gfs bern: Lukas Golder, Cloé Jans

International Advisory Board



Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), support programme “relief offers for relatives providing care”


July 2017–June 2019 (24 months)