Some days you know that you should just sit down and shut up, because someone else can express exactly what you’re thinking, but in a much clearer way.
That’s how I felt today when I came across Jonathan Rauch’s article, Letting Go of My Father, in an archived article from the Atlantic Magazine. Although Rauch’s article is a few years old now, the challenges for family caregiver remain.
Rauch shares his belief that family caregiving is much the same today as the experience of women was in the 1960s and 1970s. Certain expectations were placed on women to stay home and care for house and family, and to be happy doing it. Men – husbands – were free to work, come home and read the paper, waiting for that pre-dinner martini to be delivered with a smile.
The reality was that many women felt isolated in the modern single-family home. Many felt bored while their kids were at school most of the day. Many simply felt trapped.
It wasn’t until some women began daring to say, “We can do more” that women became empowered to make choices that worked better for them and for their families.
Today, family caregiving is much the same way. Nearly 70% of caregivers report symptoms of depression, with up to half experiencing major depression. They are 50% more likely to experience physical pain daily than their non-caregiving peers. At least 60% of family caregivers work while performing caregiving duties, resulting in additional stress and job tension. Lost productivity, workplace accommodation and other workplace challenges cost employers billions of dollars ($34 billion annually, at last count) each year in additional health care costs, not to mention the cost in lost productivity.
And yet we are only just now beginning to share our stories; to bring the tasks of family caregiving out of the dark and into the light of dinner parties and cocktail hours; of support networks and resource communities.
Rausch shares his frustration that the culture of caregiving in this country keeps the individual family caregiver in isolation and in the dark about resources that may be readily available.
He talks about the importance of learning more, as family caregivers, about tools, techniques and resources. In that, I can add my wholehearted support, as I see, every day, family caregivers who report that caregiver training classes “saved my life” by providing them information they needed to keep doing what they chose to do – be a caregiver.