Just Exactly What is Care?
When we think about caring, all manner of ideas come to mind. It is an activity that is as varied as the range of difficulties people can face and the situations they find themselves in. You could say that care is provided by a GP, a person’s partner and by an air steward but each of those is so very different. If you then think about the contrast between paid care and care provide on the basis of personal relationship, everything becomes more complex.
The idea that a carer looks after someone or something, might be a good starting point and in some circumstances the phrase tells an appropriate story. The idea of looking after a child is pretty straightforward because we all recognise that children need looking after whilst they learn to fend for themselves. Looking after contains the notion of looking out for which again, makes sense when you think about children or even people who have difficulties that cause them to be vulnerable say, to the hazards of everyday living. But one problem I have with the phrase looked after, is that it is too paternalistic and suggests a level of need or support that might be disabling in itself.
Paid-For Looking After
Another way of saying paid for, might be to use the phrase professional. Whilst we recognise there are countless family and friend carers there will be equally as many people providing direct care as part of their work or on a contractural basis. These people may be kind, generous, empathic and yes, even loving towards the people they provide care to. Equally, they may be indifferent, insensitive or unsympathetic.
Ties That Bind
People are committed to provide care for any number of reasons. It might be love; real, hard-work, sacrificial love; or perhaps guilt, loyalty or urgency. Maybe it’s a professional duty or code or a sense of determination to do something worthwhile or that will make a difference. It might also be the minimum wage. Now we begin to a add a whole new layer of complexity in looking for a definition or explanation of what is care when we think about what motivates carers.
Does it Matter?
Well, it might. If I needed to pay for support or look for help from outside of my family and friends, I would prefer to hear the carer say, “I just want to do a really good job,” rather than stroke my face and tell me how much I mean to them! I would want the person to treat me with respect and talk to me without making me appear to be a child. I would want them to remember my name and ask me things; to not blindly treat me in exactly the same way they treat all the other people they provide service to.
There is a chip shop near where I live that has several Bronze Awards proudly declared; the framed certificates are hanging behind the counter. The awards are for hygiene standards and when I notice them, it inevitably makes me wonder what the difference is between Bronze and Gold. I always conclude my musings by thinking that there must surely, be only one standard for cleanliness! I think that’s how we should think about care.
I don’t mean that one paid carer always gets more done than the other, or always insists on undertaking extra little tasks. Good care and good value isn’t just about getting your money’s worth although that might contribute to the decision to arrange care with one provider over another.
More to say
Feel free to comment and say what you think about these things. There’s a lot of care and support going on in the world and there will be a fair amount of opinion out there. I’m going to write a little more about this but thought that I should make the next point in another item so, come back in the next week or so.