Hesperian Health Guides
The community must value caregivers
Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!
Make a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.
Both women with disabilities and caregivers—whether they are family members or paid assistants, whether they are men, women, or children—are valuable members of our communities. They need to be supported in real and warm relationships within the families and communities where we live, work, and share our joys and suffering. But like most domestic work, assisting women with disabilities is seldom valued, appreciated, or seen as important. Sometimes a helper feels that even the disabled woman herself takes the assistance for granted!
Women as caregivers
Children as caregivers
It is easy to forget that children—especially daughters who assist their mothers—have their own needs. Children need to spend time with other children, to learn and to play.
Instead of always relying on their daughters, mothers with disabilities can also get help from other adults. If the mother can explain to everyone the help she needs, perhaps the entire family can work together as a team to assist her.
Men as caregivers
Sometimes it is the man or boy in a family who is the caregiver for a wife, sister, or mother. If so, he may need help from other women in the family, as well as the person he is assisting, to understand why life for a woman with a disability might be different than it is for a man. The differences between male and female bodies are important, but the differences in the ways men and women are raised and treated in the family and community are even more important.
Paid personal assistants
Sometimes a woman with a disability can pay a personal assistant whose work helps her have more freedom and be more independent. In some communities, the government provides money for people with disabilities to hire someone to assist them with daily care or will pay family members and friends to assist them. Sometimes a disabled woman gives her assistant food or a place to stay.
Although the work that assistants do, such as taking care of daily hygiene including bladder and bowel care, is very important to a person’s health, it is usually considered a low-status job and often pays very little. Many personal-care assistants say that family members sometimes want to control them and make unreasonable demands on their time, or dismiss them without explanation. And if disabled people are isolated, they may not understand how badly the attendant is being treated.
Paid caregivers, like other workers, need fair wages, time off, vacations, and sick leave.
Organizations and community groups that train and provide jobs for personal assistants can:
- help set standards for working conditions.
- educate about ways to prevent and reduce conflicts.
- offer training in counseling skills to better meet the emotional needs of women with disabilities.
- teach skills for lifting, helping someone exercise, and preventing infection.