Honorary Doctor who wants to highlight the family’s role in health and care

Many people have to take care of their elderly parents and loved ones nowadays, and those that do, know what a tough job it can be. One who can certainly relate to this is Gun-Britt Lydén – who for almost 20 years, cared for her parents and today is the committed chairperson of the organisation Family and Loved Ones in Halmstad (Anhörigföreningen i Halmstad). Furthermore, she is also a new honorary doctor in Health and Lifestyle at Halmstad University.

”I feel very humble to be given such an appointment! But above all, I am grateful for our collaboration with certain research projects at Halmstad University. I am a great believer in cross-border collaboration to be able to change and improve. The years gone by have taught me that knowledge cannot be isolated. We need to see things from different angles and never forget the silent knowledge of the people concerned”, saysGun-Britt Lydén.

In her role as chairperson of Family and Loved Ones, Gun-Britt Lydén has been involved in several research projects at Halmstad University, such as the correct usage of medication at home as well as family support in times of change. She has also been a guest lecturer at Halmstad University’s nursing education programmes concerning care and support within the health service.

Woman leaning against a red brick wall

Gun-Britt Lydén. Photo: Ida Lövstål

It started with the children

For over 55 years, Gun-Britt Lydén has shown great commitment when querying and finding answers for people who often cannot, or are just too tired to, do it themselves.

It all began back in 1966 at Halmstad's county hospital, where Gun-Britt Lydén worked taking samples e.g. blood from children. She became very popular among the children and became known as ’Auntie Needle’ – something she is quite proud of.

”I reacted quite strongly when I started working with taking samples from children and seeing the pain they experienced. I began to see it from the children's situation and realised that there was a great deal of room for improvement.”

She started her own specific way of working – by listening to both the children's and the parents' experiences, critically analysing her way of working and developing her professional role based on what she saw and experienced. She continued to work with other areas of development within the hospital, collaborated with the paediatric clinic and created a satellite unit at the department of Clinical Chemistry. All the time with focus on how to meet the patient / family members.

”For me it is all about love. Empathy and humanitarianism in the health and care service. However, I have chosen not to talk about love – instead, I speak of positive meetings and positive conversations in a working culture. I have always wanted to create an environment where you can eliminate worry and fear.”

Looked after her own parents

For almost 20 years, Gun-Britt Lydén not only worked full-time, but also at the same time took care of her sick parents who lived 100 kilometres away. There were many trips and hospital visits, both weekdays and weekends.

”It felt good and I would not have done it any differently, but it was tough. As a relative, you are often blinded by your situation and do not realise how tired you actually are.”

It was during these years she came in contact with the organisation Family and Loved Ones in Halmstad, where she is chairperson today. She has been there for seven years now and is as fully committed to help others as ever.

”When I retired, I barely realised that I stopped working. You could say that I just closed one book and opened another. Now I work with the organisation instead.”

Large group

According to Gun-Britt Lydén, 1.3 million adults in Sweden today care for or support a close relative. Seventy percent of these adults are working adults. You often think of an elderly who cares for their sick husband or wife. However, it is also parents taking care of their children, as well as relatives of people with disabilities, psychological ill health and addiction problems.

Gun-Britt Lydén wants to highlight the usefulness of this group, and feels that their work and situation needs more recognition and respect in the health and care service.

”Family members are sometimes considered angry, tedious and demanding. However, these negative expressions are mainly due to them feeling worried, sad and insecure. People are most vulnerable when they suddenly find themselves in these situations, so they need help, support and recognition for the job they are doing, as well as for the important knowledge they have of the patient.”

The importance of collaboration

After 44 years in the health service and having cared for her own parents, she has a lot of experience from both sides. In addition, she has repeatedly seen the importance of collaboration.

”If we are to improve and maintain quality, we need knowledge from different sources; we need cross-border collaboration. Otherwise, it easily becomes an “us against them” situation and you put the blame or responsibility on somebody else. We need all parties e.g. politicians, employers, employees, researchers – as well the people concerned – to sit down and talk. It is when we combine our knowledge that we can go forward.”

Gun-Britt Lydén is optimistic concerning the association's collaboration with Halmstad University and Halmstad municipality, whom she considers important parties.

”I am motivated by a will to change. You have to believe that it is possible; otherwise, everything is completely pointless. I have experienced how it actually IS possible to change things for the better – sometimes it takes time, but it is possible!”

Gun-Britt Lydén received her honorary doctorate at Halmstad University's Academic Ceremony, which was held on Friday 17 November 2017.

Text: Ida Lövstål

One of five honorary doctors

Gun-Britt Lydén is one of five honorary doctors at Halmstad University. The others are:

Nicolas Hassbjer (Information Technology, 2011)

Jan Einar Blomquist (Information Technology, 2011)

Maj-Britt Sandlund (Health and Welfare, 2013)

Jörgen Persson (Health and Welfare, 2017)

The honorary doctors are appointed by Halmstad University's Research and Education Board, to show appreciation for outstanding efforts related to the University's fields of activity.