I came across a piece from Canada’s National Post that describes family care givers as the “glue” that keeps national health care in one piece:
“Family caregivers provide the vast majority of care that happens in-between appointments with physicians or in-between hospital stays or different interactions with the health-care system,” said Christa Haanstra of the Change Foundation, an independent health policy think-tank dedicated to enhancing patient and caregiver experiences.
“There’s a lot more health care happening in the home, provided in large part by family caregivers,” said Haanstra, noting that caregivers are often invisible in the health-care system, with their contributions going unrecognized as well as unrewarded.
“We really think about them as the glue that keeps the health-care system together.”
The article goes on to describe the cost to the care givers:
…61 one per cent admitted they took on the role because they believed they had no choice, with many at times feeling trapped, helpless, frustrated and overwhelmed.
The survey found 36 per cent of caregivers felt depressed and 33 per cent were resentful of their role, with almost half overall saying caregiving had negatively affected their ability to have personal time, engage in travel or enjoy a social life.
One-third said they had experienced financial costs due to caregiving, including out-of-pocket expenses, time off work and turning down career opportunities. Eight per cent lost their jobs due to caregiving responsibilities.
Beyond the statistics are the personal accounts.
(76 year old Don) Mahood was Mary Charlotte’s 24-7 caregiver, until his wife of more than 50 years was moved to a long-term care facility about a year ago.
“At the end, I had to dress her, bathe her. I had to do everything, she couldn’t brush her teeth,” he said. “When I look back, I don’t even know how I did it myself.
“I was worn to a frazzle.”
Though caring for his wife was a labour of love, the disease put an end to their plans to spend part of their retirement years in Florida. Mahood also had to give up activities such as playing hockey, and his social life faltered as long-time friends dropped by the wayside.
The winter holidays are here. There will be funds appeals of all kinds, and Facebook memes of appreciation for those who work while others party. And all of those are good things – not knocking them at all.
But don’t miss that rapidly drying out bit of glue that helps keep society together – the amateur, shanghaied-by-circumstance army of folks in homes all around us, trying to keep things festive and “normal” in situations that ain’t.
To mix metaphors, I’ll recall what Jesus said to his disciples, You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Matthew 5:13) Care givers around us know what it’s like to lose their vigor and be trampled down by routine. We look like ourselves but we lose ourselves.
Reach out. Help the glue stay sticky and the salt stay salty. Some practical ways to do that are suggested by another care giver and blogger.