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July 19, 2012

I think the first time I thought seriously about the concept of care was when I was doing the literature search for my thesis “Work-life Balance for Parents with Low Incomes”. I read part of a book about valuing care – the unpaid care of family members by other family members and the paid care of child care providers, home support workers, etc. If I remember correctly, one of the premises of this book was that our society needs to value the work of unpaid and paid caregivers more than we do. In the case of work-life balance – if care was valued, more people would experience less stress when they participate in caring for others. The caring for others can in and of itself be stressful especially if that job of caring isn’t shared. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to care for all of its’ members. However, often care would be less stressful if it was valued and shared. 

Then I began to read – in more detail – about the care of disabled family members in disability studies literature. Most of what I initially read was about how hard it is to care for disabled family members. I do not want to deny the real hard work that caregivers do. However, I also want to share the joys of caring that many people experience. In fact the negatives of caring might be alleviated if we shared care better. The joys of being with people including disabled people could then also be shared.

I would love to hear what others have to say about care. I am open to hearing some criticism because at this point in my life I do not have to care for disabled family members. When I care for disabled people, I am well paid for it and I get to experience the benefits of care giving. I worry that my perception is a bit warped. However, I believe when others tell me that care giving and care receiving is a reciprocal process. What do you believe?

 Sheila

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3 Comments
  1. I used to work as a care assistant to the elderly with dementia. I hoped to train to become a staff nurse, like my grandmother had been (she always said I’d make a wonderful nurse, and when I began caring I realised that this was exactly where I belonged and what I wanted).

    Not for one moment did I ever think that my epilepsy would become so severe that I would become the cared for. I worry about my husband because he recieves no financial or emotional support (he recieves carer’s allowance, but that is taken from MY Disability Living Allowance and given to him by the Government, so we’re no better off than if I were recieving all the money myself) and he has nobody to fall back on either – if he gets sick he still has to do the washing up and the laundry and the cooking (I can’t trust myself with knives any more; my hands are too shaky) and take me to the doctors or to hospital appointments or the local shops. He still has to watch me like a hawk in case of seizure, and catch me if he can as I crumple to the ground.

    What I do remember is the joy and satisfaction that caring for the sick and elderly brought to me – knowing that I could go home after an enjoyable job well done was the only payment I needed beyond my wages.

    I just hope that it’s not all stress and worry for my husband. I hope there are times that he feels rewarded and happy, just as there were for me in my career.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts. “While it certainly seems like it must be easier to provide care only during working hours and go home to rest at the end of the day I’m not so sure.” really made me think (and feel). Reading about you, your mother, your children, and the people who helped you and your mother – well let’s just say I would like to hear more stories like that. Thank you for sharing your special, joyful experience.

  3. Miriam permalink

    Whether or not we are paid to “care” for others I don’t believe changes how rewarding of an experience it is. While it certainly seems like it must be easier to provide care only during working hours and go home to rest at the end of the day I ‘m not so sure. I have seen both sides having cared for a parent who became disabled and also working in a caring profession. In both situations I have been very fortunate to have had lots of support and help. The four years that I cared for my mother was a very special time for me. It gave me a chance to let her know how much joy she brought to my life and for her to let me know how much joy I had brought to hers. It gave my children a great understanding of how valuable and loved and real people are in and out of a wheel chair and totally changed my career path. I’m sure it must have seemed hard at times much like parenting but I can only remember how wonderful it was. And now when anyone I work with experiences success or joy it reawakens the joy caring for my mother brought to me.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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