Society is a complex mix of individuals, groups, institutions and cultures. But it all begins at the base of the family. Every family is important. Every family contributes to the growth and development of society, whether negatively or positively. Every family is responsible for the civilisation of society. On this basis, family care matters.

Family care focuses on the care for family members who are unable to effectively take care of themselves. In the United States, November is observed as National Family Caregivers Month, which was launched by the non-profit Caregivers Action Network in 1994 and officially declared by President Bill Clinton in 1997. The observance is designed to annually recognise the role that family caregivers play in society.

Unlike Senior Citizens Month in May — which has been adopted in our territory — Family Caregivers Month has not yet been adopted locally. Practically all other social and health issues have a month to highlight them, but one of the most critical issues — that of caring for dependent family members — has not yet taken its rightful place among them.


Who are they?

What or who are family caregivers anyway?

A family caregiver is a person who takes care of a family member who is unable to take care of himself or herself. The caregiver may be a close relative of the dependent individual — such as a son, daughter, sibling, niece or nephew — or close family friend, adopted relative or godchild.

Family caregivers are entrusted with the care of a dependent individual, whether the person is young or old, such as someone born with special needs, someone who suffered from an illness or accident, or someone who is dependent due to old age and or any debilitating disorder such as Alzheimer’s Disease or various dementias. The dependent person can also be an individual who suffers from mental illness and depression.

Anyone who needs care to assist with daily living is considered as a dependent. Some people may need more care than others, and sometimes there is the need to hire additional help to assist in caregiving.



Why the need for caregivers’ support?

Caregivers are often found among those in their 40s and 50s, referred to as the “sandwhich generation” because they are caught between the responsibilities of taking care of their own families (children and perhaps grandchildren), and their aging parents. They are usually struggling to maintain a paying job while taking care of their family member, often with no tangible reward. Sometimes those who put in the work are treated with all manner of suspicion and resentment by others who could also help but refuse to do so for whatever reason. When the burden falls on one individual, that person has to make some real personal sacrifices. And the situation often takes a toll on that individual, not only emotionally, but physically and financially as well.

When people feel that they cannot cope anymore, it is natural to seek outside help, either to ask for assistance from the state or to hire a caregiver. But as a family caregiver, there is always that sense of responsibility, and even seeking outside help can create anxiety and disunity within the family.

Caregivers need as much support as they can get from other family members and whatever resources are available in the community to help with the task at hand. Often, placing a loved one in a care facility is the last resort, and doing so may bring feelings of guilt.

Family caregivers are often not in the best of health themselves, and they may suffer from burnout. Stress can affect the level of caregiving, and so it is important that caregivers are able to take care of themselves and get adequate rest periods and opportunities to recharge and revive themselves.


‘Valuable and important’

If you are a family caregiver, know that you are valuable and important to your loved one and also to society. Whether you are taking care of a child who is differently abled or physically challenged, or an aged parent, or an adult relative who is handicapped, rest assured that your compassion and your kindness will not be in vain. Even if you don’t get thanks from man, God sees you. The Bible says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 1:1).

Take time to refresh yourself, and be thankful that you are able to help someone. Meanwhile, ask God to continue to give you the faith and strength needed daily. Remember, you are not alone.

All lives matter, and civilisation begins with caring for the less fortunate and those who can no longer take care of themselves. There may come a time when those who can do for themselves today will have to depend on others tomorrow. Sow good seeds while you still can.



Ms. Phillip Hodge, the founder of Victorious Moms Mentorship Outreach Ministry, has worked in caregiving administration for more than two decades. In recent years, she has also volunteered to train caregivers with the BVI Red Cross Home Care Basics Programme in the area of customer service for caregivers.