Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

Film Pulls Back Curtain On Tough World Of Full-Time Caregiving

BY DANIEL GAITAN | daniel@lifemattersmedia.org

A documentary making the rounds at film festivals across the nation spotlights the plight of caregivers.

Care explores the physically draining and emotionally grating job that allows millions of seriously ill and aged Americans to spend their final days at home.

Director Deirdre Fishel spent months shadowing stressed out, underpaid care workers and those who rely on them for their most basic needs. She spoke with Life Matters Media about the struggles caregivers face and what she learned making the film.

Caregiving is far from glamorous. Why do you think many Americans take such work for granted? 

I hate to say this, but I think it’s something that people just don’t want to think about.

People don’t want to think about elders. What kind of society doesn’t want to take care of the people who are taking care of our parents?

We really tried to focus on caregivers who are doing a good job because we wanted to elevate the job and show how it can be done well. But it’s also sometimes not done well, and that’s partly because caregivers are treated so poorly.

Your film is so timely. The U.S. has a massive baby boomer population that will soon require millions of caregivers.

I hope it’s a wake-up call. That was the urgency in which we made this film.

Aging is difficult in and of itself, but then to have a society that’s not taking care of you, it makes it even worse.

Unfortunately, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump have spoken much about this issue. They had three debates that tens of millions of Americans watched, and the issue wasn’t mentioned.

It’s crazy that it’s not talked about during this election. You know, it’s like an absent crisis that’s lurking.

My dad is very ill now, and it’s interesting to see what is paid for and what is not. Once you get into the hospital, they will pay for any huge, extreme medical care. But, they won’t necessarily pay for a caregiver who could take care of you and maybe even keep you out of the hospital.

I think we need to look at the re-allocation of resources. Clearly, this is a problematic situation that is going to swell. I think it requires smart thinking about where money is used.

We also need to think about quality-of-life. Do we want to put people in an institution or do we want them to have relationships that can be sustained, and for people to have the desire to even be alive?

The vast majority of Americans wish to live at home as long as possible, but your film shows that it’s not always best, or even very pleasant – especially if you don’t have a lot of money.

It’s complicated. I think if you asked all the people that we followed, at the end of the day, they would probably say that they are very happy to be at home.

I think the financial stress was really where it came in – finding someone who can be a good caregiver. If you don’t have money, that’s very, very difficult.

Staying at home is not for everybody. For some people, it would be very isolating. For others, home is the one thing they have left when they lose everything else.

So after making this film and following caregivers, what should be done? Any recommendations? 

We have to acknowledge that this is a really hard job, and it’s a complex job. Caregivers need to be trained, and they need to be supported. They need a living wage.

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