Caregiving? Surprised? You Shouldn’t Be!



Caregiving? Surprised?

You Shouldn’t Be!


by

L.T. Force, Ph.D.

Gerontologist

In the days of old - “Caregivers” were known by a different name - historically, they were referred to as a different name - they were called “Family”. In the days of old - we lived and died together - as a “Family”. What changed? Everything changed!

When was it, and what influenced the change in our attitudes and behavior (and title) associated with caring for an older family member? Part of the change can be traced to two specific things. First, the Industrial Revolution - when “work activity” moved from the “homestead” to factory and manufacturing sites. The second change can be traced to the transition of “inheritance-rules”. Before the onset of the Industrial Revolution - when a older family member was in need of care - they moved to the “West Wing” of the house….as families lived and died together. And typically land was transferred in an “intergenerational fashion”. With work now moving off the farmland into city arenas - mobility began, i.e., people moved away from the farmland - and families moved away from each other.

As we continue to trace the historical trends of family - the next major event that influenced the care from family members was the beginning of “World War II”. As “WWII” continued - women entered the workforce in large numbers - as men entered the Armed Services to defend the interests of our country and our allies. At the conclusion of the war - women continued to maintain a presence in the workplace. The result - a change found in the presence of family members at home. In continuing along the historical path - we then see the impact of Lyndon Johnson’s policy found in the

“Great Society”. One result of these policies was the creation of the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) network ( https://acl.gov/programs/aging-and-disability-networks/area-agencies-aging). The entry criteria for accessing the “AAA Network” was the person had to be over the age of 60 and be a United States citizen. Today, the entry criteria into the system has been modified and widened. But the end result is - what was once the sole responsibility of the family system - morphed into the creation of networks, agencies and programs to assist in the care provision of an older family member. Another end-result is that we moved into establishing roles and titles for individuals who were providing care to an older family member, hence, Caregivers! (I must say, I like the European name better - for a family member caring for an older family member - they are not referred to as “Caregivers” - but rather: “Carers!”)

As we trace the historical route, coupled with the increase in demographics and increase in longevity - it should not be taken as a surprise that one finds themselves in a “Caregiving Role”. And that the “Caregiving Role” impacts major parts of one’s life - including the impact on one’s “Work Life”. Today, we see companies and organizations attempting to address these issues. You can see across the nation companies and organizations putting into place

Work / Life Programs” to be of assistance to their employees - as they balance the responsibility of work and life. (On a personal level, I believe they should really be called “Life/Work Programs” - where the personal life, health and wellbeing of the employee should be highlighted first. Because as we know….a healthy employee is a better employee and more productive).


The questions are: Caregiving? Surprised?

The answers: You Shouldn’t Be! Caring is a normative process - at the intersection where the increase in lifespan meets the changes in the Family System.

One more thought - although it can be a stressful time in one’s life ….it is also an honor and privilege. Oh, and one more thing….you don’t have to do it alone….there are 1000’s of support services and programs nationwide that can help you navigate this “Caregiving Journey”. It’s your call (literally and figuratively) to decide if you want help, support and guidance to assist you in this “Carer Role!”….or do it on your own.…

Your Heart…Your Head (right-side up or upside down)….Your Call….Your Choice!