Monday, July 18, 2011

A Three Story Life: Stress

An article on NPR this morning reads that AARP's Public Policy Institute report finds the toll on family caregivers huge. Ah. The next paragraph monetizes it. Ah shit. I clicked just now on the article, and while I'm waiting for it to load, the url box reads "valuing the invaluable." What do we learn by knowing the value of caregiver work is $450 billion? What is it globally where everyone is aging at the same speed? The idea of assigning a dollar figure to family caregiving is to figure out what outside money (government programs) or enterprise (caregiving entrepreneurs) has to be spent if family caregivers aren't available, expire, or go mad and are thus confined themselves to alternative care facilities, therefore needing government programs, yadayada. AARP can estimate, assign, number crunch and recommend 'til the cows come home, but with a decades-long global financial miasma like ours we'd better pray the cows are wearing money belts stuffed with gold. As federal government shrinks, states will bear more of the burden, and states are getting rid of aid programs as fast as they can sign legislation. Where are the reports about how to live and have caregiver support when the money is gone? My wonderful friends and caregiving colleagues are trying to figure out how to NOT monetize the whole bloomin' galaxy, and still maintain a semi-upright life. Part of the stress of caregiving is reports that put a financial value on what we do, as though it's the money to think about in the future, not the people involved. Calling caregiving an "unpaid contribution" isn't the dialogue we want hitting our eyeballs and eardrums. When do we talk about people? Why aren't we hearing the narrative of people who are comfortably transitioning into the next world, while making choices about how to make life about living, not where the next buck is coming from. Those are the stories that will help us caregivers. Not how much we're not being compensated. AARP needs to be lobbying for extended family communities, not government programs. The best government money can buy got us where we are now. We need to organize life around life. Screw the dollars.

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