Ask us!

Co-creating the care relationship

Assisted-living services for people with severe mental illness, intellectual disabilities and the elderly are increasingly organized within the community. This increases the complexity of the care relationship as providers have to foster self-determination and an independent lifestyle for service users on the one hand and care for these often vulnerable individuals on the other. Professionals, service users and family members thus face dilemmas between different views on what ‘good care’ is. Quality improvement work in assisted living services becomes more complex when ‘good care’ is not straightforward.

Quality improvement methods that encompass storytelling seem particularly fit for addressing the complexity of the care relationship. This is specifically so when they entail a process of co-designing quality improvement actions that emerge from sharing experiences between different stakeholders. Experience based co-design (EBCD) is one method that has led to quality improvement informed by service users’, providers and family member’s experiences. However, it has not been adopted to the context of community housing services and dealing with dilemmas between different ideas on good quality care.

To adjust EBCD to the context of community housing services we conducted a literature review to gain insight into the dilemmas in the care relationship. These dilemmas are further explored through ethnographic fieldwork (semi-structured interviews, observations and focus groups) in three teams working in assisted living services for people with severe mental illness, intellectual disability and elderly. In collaboration with a community theatre group, 42 short films are made based on these dilemmas. These films are the input for dialogue about the dilemmas in the care relationship and co-designing quality improvement. This method is evaluated and further adjusted in three other care teams.


A journal article on the ‘Ask Us!’ method has been published in the journal Health Expectations.

In this article we describe the participatory process through which the ‘Ask Us!’ method was designed. Want to know more about this valuable method in improving quality of care in co-creation with clients, next-of-kin and professionals? The article is accessible here.

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