Caring: A Family Affair
Caring: A Family Affair

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Caring: A Family Affair

3.3.1 Care: a cautious definition

For study purposes, we do need a definition of care, just as we needed a definition of informal carer. So we propose that in the context of health and social care we define care as:

something that is needed when people cannot function in daily life without the practical help of others.

But, as I have shown, care is a loaded word. It is both a word used by ordinary people to mean love, tenderness and protection, and a word used by professionals to mean a range of tasks concerned with supporting people who cannot function without the help of others. It is associated both with medical care and with support to people in living normal lives. And it is, to some people, a term which, when applied to them, is belittling and demeaning. It is a word we have to use, for lack of good alternatives. But it is a word to use with care!

Key points

  • Care is both love and work – caring about and caring for. Sometimes the two go together, but this is not always the case.

  • Labelling people as being in categories who need care is a way of targeting benefits and support: it can also lead to restricted opportunities and negative attitudes.

  • Changing labels can help to change attitudes; and changing attitudes give rise to changes in language.

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