Friday, March 12, 2010

Caregivers don’t need to go it alone.

Some days you know that you should just sit down and shut up, because someone else is able to 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 April’s online edition of the Atlantic magazine

Rauch shares his belief that family caregiving is much the same today as the experience of women was in the 60s and 70s. 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 other women became empowered to make choices that worked better for them and for their families.

Today, family caregiving is much the same way. Caregivers report a higher rate of depression and stress than non-caregiving adults. They report challenges staying on top of their job requirements, costing employers billions of dollars ($13.4 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 [link to IPCed PCA main page] “saved my life” by providing them information they needed to keep doing what they chose to do – be a caregiver.

In the end, Raush says,

“There should be no need for anyone to go through this alone, and no glory in trying.”

To which I simply say, AMEN!


  1. Far too many caregivers suffer in isolation. We recently profiled a mother who has raised two sons who have a rare genetic disorder at In her own words, "I think that no man is an island. We’re not supposed to live this life without friends and assistance." Somehow we have to shake ourselves free of the idea that asking for help is a failure of sorts when in fact it's all about having strength and courage.

  2. I can't agree more. We've placed such a high value in our culture on rugged independence that we have created a culture of isolationism - we don't want others to know that we can't do it all. Once we start breaking down those cultural walls and letting people into our lives, through training, support networks or simply getting help, we'll find our lives fuller; richer, too.