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Posted: July 04, 2005

Practical Caregiving

From an Earlier Time -- It Was Still Called Caregiving

Since this is July 4th, our Independence Day in the United States, my thoughts have gone to the freedom we now have and how it came about. We do have a lot of freedom, although sometimes we, as caregivers, feel we don't have a choice about our own lives. We are stuck taking care of someone else when we would like to be out having fun like everyone else. We love the person we are taking care of, but we don't want to be doing what we need to do.


Let's take a closer look at our freedom -- or what we think is our lack of freedom.


In 1492, Columbus is said to have discovered America. He believed the world was round, rather than flat. At that time, men were in complete control of everything, and women were subservient. However, that didn't mean a man or a woman could do or think differently than the teachings of the times. People laughed at anyone who thought the world was not flat, and sometimes they were even jailed. To have an opinion that was different from the teachings of the time brought about extreme hardship.


Caregiving at that time wasn't anything like it is today -- but it obviously did exist. Parents and their children's spouses and kids lived together. As the parents got older and often ill, the rest of the family took care of them. The family did what they could, but they didn't know then what we know today. As it is today, it  was very hard to be a caregiver and easy to become so extremely exhausted because you were taking care of your parents, relatives, spouse and/or children.


Plagues killed entire families, and doctors didn't know what to do. If caregivers needed help, they had to send another member of the family to get that help. While taking care of their loved one, they had to spend hours each day cooking (if they were a woman) or hunting and gathering the food (if they were a man). Being a family caregiver wasn't a choice; it was just the way things were.


In 1692, there were the Salem Witch Trials. If someone looked different, acted different, or even went to the wrong place, they were branded as a witch and killed. If someone accused you of being a witch, you were usually killed. If your parent or child was determined to be a witch, you were also considered. If a person had seizures, they were accused of being a witch. The family caregiver did everything they could to take care of their loved ones, but they couldn't stop the hysteria. It wasn't a choice; it was just the way things were.


On July 4, 1776, we claimed our independence from Britain. Life at that time was not very pleasant, to say the least. Many people died from the hardships of living here. Men had to labor hard as well as fight the people that were already on this land, the American Indian. Women had to work just as hard, and quite often died in childbirth. Other women were selected to raise their children. There were very few times available for entertainment because they needed food to eat, and places to live and stay warm in the winter. No one had much in the way of clothes -- quite often just two sets of clothes. One set for the week and one set for Sunday when everyone went to church. Everyone was still expected to take care of their ailing parent, or any other relative who was sick. If they couldn't go to church or see their neighbor, they had to suffer without seeing anyone else. It was all in their hands. They had to make the decisions, quite often without any information or help. Being a family caregiver wasn't a choice; it was just the way things were.


In the late 1800's and early 1900's, people still lived the simple life of their ancestors. The industrial revolution was well underway, but people still thought a lot like they had in the centuries before. If a woman wore a red dress, she was branded a prostitute. A school teacher couldn't go to a dance or drink an alcoholic beverage. People still were expected to take care of their ailing relative, whether it be a parent, child, spouse or other relative. They were still unable to visit anyone else while they had to take care of their loved one. They sat up all night with them, washed their clothes by hand, swathed them with a cool cloth, and did anything else that was needed. If they needed a doctor, they could have another member of the family ride a horse to get the doctor, but if he was taking care of someone else, they had to wait and take care of the illness themselves. And they still had to work and prepare food for everyone in the house. Being a family caregiver wasn't a choice; it was just the way things were.


I'm so glad I live now instead of in those times. Modern medicine has helped us so much. There is medicine to slow the progression of some diseases. There is medicine to stop the pain of some diseases. There is medicine to control some diseases. There is medicine to stop some diseases. They didn't have any of these in the times I mentioned above.


In the United States, we have a host of caregiver support services, from home health care agencies and adult day care centers to local support groups and internet support groups. We can call our friends and relatives on the telephone and talk for hours while we are taking care of our loved one. We can take care of our loved one at home or in a care facility. We can ask friends to come and be with our loved one while we take an afternoon off to go shopping or to a movie. We can buy prepared food at the grocery story or in a restaurant and then heat it in the microwave. We can go to clinics all over the world if we want to. I am free to think and do what I want, as long as it doesn't hurt someone else. Being a family caregiver isn't a choice, but how we take care of our loved one is our choice. This is just the way things are today!


Have a great holiday.

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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