The Hidden Value of Care

Submitted by Vickie Cammack on May 25, 2017 - 3:27am
Natural Care - a Series on the Importance of Caring.

Caring for each other takes place every day, everywhere, by just about everyone. It is as ordinary and necessary as breathing.  Over our lifetime, eighty percent of the care we need is freely given, offered by families, friends and neighbours. Yet its central role in shaping our lives is absent from our day-to-day conversation.  We don’t have words to describe care because often, we don’t notice it. We perform daily acts of care, love, obligation and solidarity naturally and without conscious thought.

Everyday caring is hard to talk about. We have to pick our way though limited vocabulary to reflect the value, meaning and struggle of our caring without inadvertently casting ourselves as heroes or martyrs. Each of us is completely dependent on others at various points in our lives. At odds with that practical reality is our society’s reverence for the ethic of personal independence.  Our inevitable frailty reveals that there is no independence without interdependence. 

Even so, vulnerability, dependence and physical decline are uncomfortable subjects outside of home and family.  That’s a lesson that caregivers and their loved ones learn the hard way and one of the reasons isolation is so often a part of the caring experience. In a world of over-exposure, caregiving is still a taboo subject. 

The public experiences of ‘care’ in our society have been professionalized and reduced to service interactions. Consider the impersonal ‘customer care specialists’ at the end of a protracted telephone tree or the large corporation that declares ‘caring: it’s in our nature.’ In our health care systems, blockbuster drugs and technologies have taken center stage and ‘care’ is provided in tightly controlled units. Caseloads and service plans dominate our social care systems.  Family and friends labeled as ‘caregivers’ are often noted as a detail of the patient history, rather than as integral members of the care team. It should come as no surprise then, that natural care with its engine of love has little value in these systems powered by money.

The irony is that the financial sustainability of our formal care systems is completely dependent upon the freely given care of family, friends and neighbours. The role of medical professionals is to provide treatment and information aimed at curing what ails patients. But after leaving the doctor’s office or hospital, it is the practical and emotional support of family and friends that enables healing. Family caregivers are firmly embedded with professionals in the circle of care. But often the only people who recognize that reality are caregivers themselves. 

As caregivers it is imperative we speak up and take our pride of place beyond the intimate caring circle.  Our stories, knowledge and earned wisdom are priceless resources for care providers, policy makers and change makers. Making them visible is one of most caring acts we can perform.  

This blog was published with the permission of Vickie Cammack. Follow her on twitter here and visit her profile on Troy Media here.

Further Reading


Getting ready for no-go years

I'm not surprised about synchronicity any more. I believe it is one of the energies that underpins our evolution as a society. When something I'm thinking about becomes something someone else is thinking about, and I realise I am not alone in a snap like reading this post is for me...when I yell to myself "hey, I could have said that!", that's the jolt of joy that makes my day. I'm a connector in my soul, and can prove that.

Check out my website and get a bead on why I am so very excited to meet Vickie in cyberspace. We are on the same trail. 

So couldn't agree more with Vickie and this post.  Caregivers are underpinning the health care system now, and they will do so more and more in the future. Until we boiled frog caregivers just stop paddling and gasp our last, systems will be OK with that. Caregiver at home? Great! One less problem for the discharge planner. Nothing to support the caregiver but words and perhaps a recognition day once a year. Words.

While the gene  or epigene or whatever there must be  that has socialised we humans, mostly daughters, into empathy and caring, is one of our very best species assets...our caring capacity--, community body-- needs nourishment and movement, just like our individual physical one. "Use it or lose it"

Our society and its capacity for caring and empathy is going to be tested as we go forward in bigger and bigger crowds of the becoming-needy.  

Boomers are turning 65 now in Canada at a rate of 1000 a day. We enter seniorhood as go-go types enjoying all that retirement offers and thinking little about the way ahead. Indeed, in denial about it all. It happens to others. But then there's the creep into our reality of the go-slow time.  Cruises now look like more fun than Machu Pichu adventure tours.  But go-slow is still a time when forward planning is possible. We downsize, we find a new neighbourhood closer to the kids or the hospital, we tend and befriend the community around that hopefully includes some much younger people. Then, in a flash or a crash, we enter the no-go time when being cared for is the name of the game. 

I'm thinking that taking advantage of our go-go and go-slow years to prepare ourselves and our community for the no-go ones is one of the challenges we have to face as aging boomers. Action follows awareness and acknowledgement of what works well (be a booster of it) and the muck-ups (that need push back and avocacy to shift.)

We are the generation that used to have yard parties and babysitting co-ops when our kids were young, we knew how to make the PTA work for our interests and if we needed a social change big or small to make our iives work better (birth control, abortion rights, no fault divorce, gay marriage...) we found a way to get it done in groups and alliances and piggy backing on each other.  That old spirit is still in us. I think we need to get back in tune with it  though, and rediscover the ways we can use it again now that we get breathless and have to get to bed on time.

That's not just for the caring challenges today...with our parents mostly, but for the ones that lie ahead, ...when it is our turn.