Caring is essentially an altruistic phenomenon. As humans, we feel a natural instinct to help those in need and support; and most people would feel this way. However caring demands can become oppressive and suppressive. The caring individual who carries out his duties may feel that he is simply being 'used' by the person in care. In fact the person-in-care may even feel belittled, perceiving it as 'using' the person's goodwill (this is suggested in Sarah's case, whereupon she is paid petrol and postage expenses as well as general domestic ministration by her relatives). And this is why carer payments are very important. Such payments give a sense of appreciation for the carer's hard work, responsibilities and commitment. It also prevents the development of misgivings and abjectedness within the cared-for. Thus I believe that benefit payments should be standardized into independent schema, providing for the various care needs of the individual.
Feelings about care relationships
• Diane couldn't imagine being paid for what she did. She thought that, if she was paid, she would, ‘have felt obligated to do it’. This way it felt like her choice. ‘I wanted to make those choices freely'.
• John described the basis of his caring for Mr Asghar as, ‘a mutually beneficial friendship … always has been’.
• Enid emphasised that she looked on her caring as a parental responsibility. ‘They're my children and it's my duty to look after them … they weren't asked to be born.’
• Sarah spoke about being a care recipient, and wondered if everything that people did for her was care at all, and if, by calling it care, it made her sound more dependent, ‘as if, in a way, you need more help than you do’.
• Alex tried to keep the care she received down to a minimum. She wanted to be in charge and said, ‘I don't want a lot more care. I don't want to feel that there are carers always here, otherwise it feels too much “old lady” for me’.
Enid and Sarah mentioned relatives and friends, but the others sounded as if they were managing on their own, or within their immediate family unit.
Care work can be an isolating experience. The hours are long. Sometimes they are unpredictable, and being cared for doesn't always mean that you're necessarily going to be able to have the time or energy to develop other relationships.
You might like to consider whether demographic changes are likely to have an effect on who is available for care and support, now and in the future.
John Avery was divorced, Mr Asghar lived alone and Alex Zinga was single. Perhaps care transactions with non-family members are likely to be the future pattern.
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