For International Women's Day and Women's History Month, I #ChoosetoChallenge society's image of the family caregiver.
What do we think of, immediately, upon hearing 'caregiver'? I would argue that we think of a meek, timid woman; a woman who is full of love and is completely devoted to giving all her waking moments to the needs of another. She's not in 3D in our heads. We don't worry about her because she doesn't have any needs herself. We don't even worry whether she's equipped to take on the care of an ill or aging person in her home. We have no concerns for the person she is taking care of, either. If they are ill, aging or disabled, they are already counted out of our society; now, their caregiver will be, too.
This archetype is not only unfair, unreasonable and dangerous; it's also just untrue. Lisa Winstel, Chief Operating Officer of the Caregiver Action Network, says,
The stereotypical image of a family caregiver—a 48-year old woman with school-aged children and aging parents—needs to change."
A recent study called The Global Carer Wellbeing Index, conducted by Embracing Carers, reveals 60% of first-time caregivers are Gen Z or Millennials. The Family Caregiver Report released in May of 2020 by AARP showed young caregivers are also incredibly diverse. We are Latinx, we are BIPOC; we are LGBTQIA. Is our image changing yet?
Here's the other thing -- we are up for the challenge. The Global Carer Wellbeing Index revealed that 91% of Millennial family caregivers in the U.S. and 88% worldwide said that caregiving gives them meaning and a sense of purpose. However, this doesn't mean we are willing to be tucked away, invisible and unheard. It's quite the opposite. We are asking for help. 95% of Millennial family caregivers said they could use help navigating the system to make sure they are providing proper care. 77% said the pandemic has made them feel more burned out than ever before. We find caregiving meaningful, but we need help and we need support.
I #choosetochallenge the image of the caregiver. I also #choosetochallenge the image of the young caregiver. We are advocating for ourselves and for our loved ones. We are also advocating for each other. The way in which caregiving is handled and regarded in our society must change, and we are ready to do our part.