Wednesday, May 30, 2007


All right, now I'm mad.

    I've just made the acquaintance of a man who "made the choice" (as though people who become avocational caregivers wake up one morning and say, "Hmmm...I think I'll take care of my ailing/old/terminal relatives...sounds stimulating and fun!") to become a full-time caregiver to two "family members" (he hasn't yet revealed the relationships or circumstances of those needing care). He is noticing that his former professional colleagues are completely undone by his decision; so much so that, rather than sympathize with his very hard "choice", they are castigating him for "taking the easy way out" [Out of what, I can't help but ask.] and treading a dangerously "co-dependent" path. He is, needless to say, finding it very difficult to even want to remain connected to what are fast becoming his former friends and supporters.
    Jesus Fucking Christ! Give us caregivers a break, people!
    Let me tell you this: Every caregiver, including me, has to continually come to terms with negotiating these criticisms, and, believe me, there's no help to speak of when we find negotiations necessary. How many times do I have to say this??? We are members of a species that is so ubiquitously social that it's a toss up whether our affinity for tool making or clan making tipped us into species success. And, yet, here we are, in our burgeoning prime, forming societies that extol the virtues of independence from members of our species, shivering at the thought that caregiving for others is anything other than incidental and worth little recognition or heightened survival status, condemning those of us who go against the thoughtless grain and find it necessary, for ourselves and our loved ones, to opt to give care to those who need it, usually for no pay, no support and no respect. Those of us who "choose" to give care, part time or full time, doesn't matter, do this in a society that pushes teamwork in its businesses and political parties yet refuses to recognize that adequate teamwork is virtually unavailable to its caregivers; celebrates the "public service" of politicians who are typically in league with private, corporate interests yet provides little more than "Take Care of Yourself, Have a Good Day" sentiment to those of us, the caregivers, who are truly involved in public service every minute of every day; lionizes those who "break out of the mold" unless those breaking out are breaking into caregiving, which is clearly a mold for which our society has no respect. How stupidly confused can we get???
    You think it's "easy" to be a caregiver? You think those of us who become companions and caregivers to those who need it are sneakily taking the "easy way out", wallowing in "co-dependence", "finding excuses to avoid responsibility"? Let me tell you how "easy", "dangerously co-dependent" and "irresponsible" caregiving is:    Is it any wonder why I have become so critical about the "Take Care of Yourself" and "Avoid Co-Dependence" movements, hailed by most of society and completely irrational for caregivers of any stripe, at any time? We don't need any more independence in this society, believe me. We're ripping apart our families and abandoning our elders to substandard, often dangerous care by refusing to question our presence on this holier than thou platform of personal "independence" and "responsibility".
    You think I'm wrong about the lack of support for caregivers to the elderly and infirm? Consider this: The big movement in elder care, right now, is to help adult relatives ensure that their elderly are encouraged to live as independently as possible as long as possible. How wise and advantageous do you think this is to members of a species that is so socially attuned that, according to this recent story culled from an author who writes primarily for the home buyers market, large homes undermine our species' felicitous humanity? In order to belabor the point, consider this as well: How "wise" is it to leave people who are beginning to dement to their own resources most of the time? Once more, with feeling, how "wise" is it to take pride in managing an elderly person's life so that you feel good about not being there for them?
    Easy? You think this is easy? You think I'm avoiding the "real world"? You think I've opted for throwing my mother and myself into a cycle of deleterious co-dependence? You think I'm somehow leading myself and my mother down an inhuman path?
    You need to think again. Hard. Being a companion and caregiver to someone who is Ancient or Infirm is so difficult in a society that ignores and scolds its caregivers, that, believe me, most people "choose" not to do this. These are the people who manage to get the most support for any guilt they might feel at refusing the "choice"; they are, after all, "taking care of themselves" appropriately; "wisely" eschewing the possibility of ominous "co-dependence"; valorously supporting this society's love of independence to the exclusion of our equally natural need for association with members of our species; not to mention supporting a professional care industry that hugely appreciates their dollars to the exclusion of appropriately appreciating their relatives.
    Easy, my ass. If you think it's so easy, so carefree, why the hell aren't you doing it???

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