Kudos to Caregivers
One of the most challenging and powerful family transitions is when we realize that our aging parents need more of our care, help, support, patience and time. It can force us, as children, to shed our final vestige of being the child and step fully into being adult.
There are many factors that challenge caregiving today compared to previous generations:
- Many families are separated by distance. Career opportunities and globalization have made moving to another city or country easier and attractive.
- As if the generation gap in perspectives wasn’t enough, now we live in a world of fast-changing technology – at odds with an older generation that used manual, analogue and no technology. This contrast in life pace adds a dimension and tension to caregiving that didn’t exist before.
- Parental expectations that adult children and grandchildren will visit like they did themselves with their own parents.
- We’re living longer and we’re living longer with chronic illnesses.
A 2007 report from StatsCan called Eldercare: What we know today offers information about caregivers:
- 57% caregivers are women and 43% are men,
- 75% are in between 40-64 years of age,
- 75% are married or divorced, likely with children of their own and
- 57% are working.
The report says that the majority of caregivers are women but according to these numbers, it’s a slim majority (57% women, 43% men) and doesn’t acknowledge the effort that men are putting into caregiving today.
The report also highlighted that caregiving is most often provided to our parents and then to our friends. There’s another great reason to continue nurturing and valuing our old and new friendships.
The tasks are predictably gender-based: Women doing the activities inside the home, men doing the maintenance work outside the home – both are equally important and help seniors remain in their homes longer and age in place.
Along with the stresses and challenges that come with caregiving, there are so many gifts we receive from this opportunity to care for our aging family members:
- Learning and understanding how the health care system operates,
- Deepening our connections with our parents and siblings, and between the generations of our families,
- Facing our fears about aging, illness, suffering, death and dying,
- Learning about our beliefs and perspectives on growing older and befriending our older selves,
- Helping the youngest generation become comfortable with aging and growing old,
- Being fully present in our relationships,
- Enjoying each moment knowing that the end of the relationship is nearing, and
- Growing our sense of compassion, patience, advocacy, love and respect.
Huge applause and a standing ovation to all caregivers – you rarely receive the much-deserved acknowledgment or appreciation for the quiet help and support you give to your family members.
It makes our society a better, wiser and more loving place in which to live. Now if we could only provide financial support to caregivers…