What the ‘good fairy’ brings…..

I have a ‘good fairy’ friend who flits by at least once a month. I never  know  exactly when she is coming, or what she will bring with her, or if I will see her, or just a little gift in my mail box as evidence of her fleeting presence. Sometimes her gifts are delicious edibles and, other times, she comes with her window washing wand  or her car washing wand.   One of my favourites  is  her silver polishing wand. Last month, she came with the gift of the company of her daughter and her 5 month old grand-daughter. It was wonderful fun to have a baby in the house again; especially one that only required admiration and smiles from me.

Last week my ‘good fairy’ friend arrived on my doorstep with a wandful of magazines. In amongst the ‘usuals’, like North and South, was a magazine I had not encountered before called FamilyCARE.

It was a fascinating read BUT I was completely stunned to learn from its pages that there are 420,000 (plus) unpaid family carers in New Zealand and that 10% of New Zealand’s 15 to 24 year olds are unpaid  carers of family members.  That’s a very large unpaid work force for a small country like New Zealand.

That got me thinking, and googling, about family carers in other countries, and that is when my jaw really hit the floor.

In Australia, there are 2.6 million unpaid family carers; 300,000 of them are under the age of 24; 520,000 are over the age of 65. In 2010,  these carers provided an estimated 1.32 billion hours of care. The estimated replacement value of their caring roles was $A 40.9 billion in 2012.  Yes, we are talking in BILLIONS.

The situation is much the same in the UK where there are an estimated 6.4 million unpaid family carers providing services valued at  £119 billion  per year. Again, we are talking BILLIONS .

In the USA, there are 65.7 million family caregivers; or 29% of the adult population caring for one or more family members.

The numbers are staggering, and growing yearly, as populations age and social services grow leaner and meaner. In the UK , the lean meanness seems to extend to the introduction of a strange creature called the Bedroom Tax which, somehow, relates a person’s benefit to the number of  bedrooms the Government authorities believe an individual requires. Huh??? I hope the idea doesn’t catch on in New Zealand which is already far too keen to cut and paste (or is it slash and burn?) its social welfare programmes  in to a more eye-catching, voter friendly  system.

In both Australia and the UK, there appears to be some provision for a small allowance for family carers but that is not, currently, the case in New Zealand. Most family carers, wherever they are, undertake their caring duties willingly, and with great devotion, and little complaint. Never the less, surveys show that there are often huge physical, mental and financial costs incurred by family carers which, eventually, will need to be borne by yet more family members or Government support agencies.  Where does it end? What is to be done?

Carers’ organisations are working hard to support family caregivers. Are Governments listening? It’s hard to believe so, when we see the screws being tightened on social policies worldwide, whilst the purses open for banks and motorways and big business, and  goodness knows what else that is supposed to enrich our lives.  Wouldn’t it be amazing, bordering on miraculous, if a Government were to come forward and say to its family carers, “Why, thank you, good people, for giving millions of dollars worth of service to your country, without which our economy and health services would crumble.” Whilst millions wait, with little hope, for an official  vote of thanks, we can take matters into our own hands and thank and bless all those who take care of another. In that category, I will put my ‘good fairy’ friend. She has done her share of caring over the years.

© silkannthreades

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20 thoughts on “What the ‘good fairy’ brings…..

  1. utesmile

    That is interesting. I think most people care for someone else out of love and dont think so much about anything else. I do know that it is really good in Ireland. A friend went over there to care for her elderly parents and she is ever so happy with all the help she gets. She said it was her best move. It is sad how some countries treat you!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad your friend and her parents are so well supported in Ireland. It is wonderful when caring arrangements work out well for everyone concerned.

      Reply
  2. Sheryl

    What a thought-provoking post. It has made me think about how different countries care for their elderly and individuals with disabilities.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes each country will have a slightly different approach.I am sure there is a lot we can learn from each other both in our successful and not so successful strategies.

      Reply
  3. cindy knoke

    A critically important issue and I am proud of you for researching and publishing it. Care givers experience significant stress and burnout, exacerabated by lack of recognition and support.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, Cindy. My awareness of caregiving began at a very young age when I watched my grandparents and their siblings caring for each other in their old age. But it was not till last week that I realised the staggering numbers involved in family care giving.

      Reply
  4. lagottocattleya

    Interesting entry. The number of people engaged in this unpaid family care goes beyond my thinking. I guess there are many of them in Sweden too, because our health care and care for the elderly is crumbling. We had a good system…but that was years ago now. The system in Korea (South I guess) sounds very interesting too.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I was trying to google information on Sweden because I thought Sweden had a good system. But I didn’t find anything in the short time I was looking. I guess ,like everywhere else, tight Government finances are squeezing welfare programmes.

      Reply
  5. Clanmother

    Volunteer work has always been discounted because we associate value with a monetary reward. Canada has an aging population as well. My commitment is that I keep on walking, participating and choosing to eat the right foods. And keeping focused on all possibilities. This was an excellent post. One of the reasons I chose to leave my long term career to pursue project work was to give my job to the next generation. It is their time now! And I want to give them all my support as they go forward!!! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I admire your good citizenship. And yes we can do so much to help ourselves and others which is what caregivers and volunteers show us on a daily basis. As I write this I am mindful of the maimed and injured from Boston and now Texas who may require life long support and caring from family and Government agencies. Our humanity is called upon each and every hour and most of us are not found wanting.

      Reply
  6. Annie's Place

    Your friend sounds wonderful. Of course, here in the USA, many people continue to fight for social programs. Sad to say, it is hard to believe that any politicians would support the idea of paying family members for care giving. We’ll see what the future brings.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Many people and politicians don’t believe it is necessary to pay family members for care giving. Many carers don’t believe they need to be paid. But ,even if that is the case, at the very least, I think it would be good to somehow formally acknowledge what tremendous work is done by millions of loving caring family members.

      Reply
  7. lautal

    That is nice to have somebody who cares. Donald Walsh in his book “Convresation with God” gives the idea about family meaning. The first and most importent carers are family members. Children have to have responsibility for their parents, grandparents have to care about grandchildren. This is what family is about. Love and careness should be the most importent feelings in any family. There are nations in the world where the senior people prevailed over younger ones. How and where governments of these countries can get money to pay for careness. I know countries where Donald Walsh’s idea is working.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Family members are the most important of carers. Most countries would be completely unable to provide all the care that is required if family members suddenly refused to help out. But of course they would not do that. The book you mention sounds most interesting.

      Reply
  8. lensandpensbysally

    Thought-provoking post–it’s such a complex and also troubling topic. You are blessed to have such a friend to stoke your life with joy.

    Reply
  9. coulda shoulda woulda

    Funny enough in Korea, they are starting to trial a new benefit specifically for grandparents who raise or part time raise a child so that both parents can work. These issues are becoming ironically more important as the recession continues because now the need for care is even more crucial. I don’t know how this could be quantified in a bureaucratic method.
    Regarding bedroom tax – the name is a lot scarier than what it portrays – it is just a way of making room for families who need a house versus a single person who just likes having a 3 bedroom house and won’t move.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ah thank you for the Bedroom Tax explanation. I found it very bemusing and was hoping I would be enlightened by another blogger. Interesting to know what is happening in Korea too.

      Reply

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