“Caregiving is not new,” said Emily Abel, a professor at UCLA. “It has long been a normative experience in women’s lives.” In 19th century America it dominated their lives from “girlhood to old age”
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
ghosts of caregiving past
What do a 19th Century stone mason, a painter, an engineer at a gunpowder plant, and a fireman have to do with National Family Caregiving Month? Probably not much - contrasted to their wives who gave birth to, raised, and kept house for families with an average of 7 children, long before disposable diapers or indoor plumbing.
Yet without them I would not exist, these were my great grandparents. Born before the US Civil War some were immigrants, some from slave owning families, and some left home as teens to become ‘servants’. I’ve been stalking them with a 14 day free trial of Ancestry.com. However as spouse caregiving has dominated 36% of my life, eventually my eyes always look for clues.
21st Century statistics report women make up 66% of caregivers. While I may be ‘the 33%’ now it was not that way when it began over two decades ago. Statistically males represented 10% of caregivers around 1990 and damn lonely especially lacking any traditions, literature, and frankly head butting against societal perceptions of male and female roles and skills. Simultaneously I was juggling basically single parenting our then toddler daughter. Even popular culture at the time portrayed men as bumblers in maternal roles.
Back to the future, President Franklin Pierce vetoed health care reform legislation in 1854 arguing that the law violated states’ right position. We are STILL arguing over what we expect our federal and state governments to do about health care.
With medicine able to prolong life where previously terminal (injuries, accidents, illnesses, war wounds…) - disabled Americans were reintegrated into communities and wheelchairs appear. The first US patent for a wheelchair was granted in 1869.
Sometimes a glance backwards frames perspective and more importantly reenergizes the potential ahead.
Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer
web site: caregivinglyyours.com
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