Caring Friendship is Cruical
This is my third post looking at caring relationships. Part One was, Care to Care and Part two, Standard of Care. I aimed to be done in two but the more I thought about things, the more came to mind. Here, I want to think about the place of friendship in care or maybe the place of care in friendship! Caring Friendship is crucial to relationships, to individuals and to the economy.
Tell me About the Money
In the other two posts I mentioned money as being part of the motivation for care. It’s not the only thing for everyone but money plays its part. This might be a person working and studying to become a specialist doctor and enjoying the security that brings. It could be a student doing support work between (or during) terms and it’s possible that money received through carer’s allowance helps a person keep on providing support.
The other side of the coin, so to speak is to not forget that the provision of some care, especially care in the community, coupled with support provided informally, saves the state an extraordinary amount. One report estimates it to be £119 bn savings from carers and even if you factor in a bit of journalistic licence, that’s got to be a lot of money! And then there’s the money saved because of the preventative component of good care. I wonder if the most prominent story in the context of informal care is this one about state expenditure?
Caring Friendship is Free
Well, it might be free but that does not mean it does not cost. Caring demands time and effort, physical and emotional energy as well as extra spending. But often, it is freely given even though it might be difficult. I’m certain that at times, friend and family carers will be at the end of their tether, feel isolated and out of their depth and not know which way to turn. This informal care is free also in the sense that it isn’t regulated. The carer will not be bound by codes of practice, complex statute or contractual obligations but will be able to just do what they think is best. They will have intimate or personal knowledge of the person being supported; they might know their ways and be able to respond with sensitivity in an intuitive way. Oh, did you know by the way, that if you provide care for someone with a disability, you could ask for a carers assessment?
Paid For Friendship
One of the challenges for paid-for or professional care is around this friendship thing. Where informal care often starts from friendship, should we anticipate that paid for care leads to friendship? Some people have a range of need that causes isolation and loneliness. The carer might be the only other person they see from week to week or they might be the only person they see who is immediately and consistently kind and attentive. There’s no regulation that can prevent people becoming friends but in this context it can bring yet another layer of complexity.
Carers will often be involved in helping people with very personal matters. It might be as simple as choosing a family birthday card, completing a form about finances, applying medication or other forms of direct care. They will chat and share common experiences, sometimes over long periods. At the same time, the carer will be bound by codes of conduct such as confidentiality and will need to keep in mind that they are providing a service.
Dependence, Independence, Interdependence
Is there a place for friendship in paid-for caring relationships? Well, of course there is and we would expect a carer to be personable, warm and friendly. At the same time, it is important to consider that an important objective of care and support is to help a person achieve greater or complete independence. This means wherever possible, to work towards ending the arrangement whereas friendship is more likely to involve activities that preserve and maintain the relationship. Maybe, a caring arrangement will move from dependence, to interdependence and independence but if it gets stuck in interdependence, it might be wise for both parties to think about why that is happening.
What Do You Think?
This hasn’t been an easy idea to write about but I do think it important. How do people manage the intimacy of care? I would be interested to hear what you have to say.
Perhaps your carer became your partner or maybe the strain of the caring relationship damaged a friendship. I don’t expect you to comment about personal details but you might have something to say about friendship and care. If so, please chip in!
Look out for “My Lover, My Carer” on Radio 4.
What happens to long-term relationships when a lover becomes a carer? Julie Fernandez talks to four couples where one partner has a severe disability about the challenges of being the carer – and the cared-for.