Are family carers heroes?
In 2015, Care Alliance Ireland established the Discussion Paper Series, which was developed to discuss some of the less spoken about issues facing family carers. Some topics are seen as awkward, or irrelevant but have massive impacts on either specific groups of family carers, or by a broader spectrum of carers.
Paper 12 in the series, now available on the Care Alliance Ireland website, examines the topic of ‘hero narratives’ of family care.
Family carers are held up as examples of selflessness, of heroic undertaking and sacrifice that elevate them above others. There is no doubt that family carers can and do make sacrifices in their personal and professional lives, and in terms of their mental, physical and emotional health in order to provide that care. However, a blanket ‘hero narrative’ applied to family carers is not always appropriate, and can elicit feelings of frustration, anger and inadequacy from family carers, who feel uncomfortable with such labels.
In addition, it can fuel a paternalistic view of those in receipt of care and support, as caring for them is positioned as a job nobody else could possibly want or successfully do. It can also mirror the heroic view of people with disabilities as inspirational figures simply for existing in their disabled bodies, without necessarily thinking about how those bodies and individuals are disabled by a society which insists on holding them to a different standard.
This paper aims to discuss these issues and suggests some policy and practice responses for health and social care professionals. You can read this paper on our website; https://www.carealliance.ie/userfiles/files/CAI_DiscussionPaper12_FamilyCarersAsHeroes.pdf.
We are always looking for new topics to discuss as part of the series, so if you have suggestions for topics, or if you are interested in working on a collaborative paper on a topic of interest, please contact Zoe by email at email@example.com.