The cross : Caregivers are most often caregivers. How to explain it?
Morgane Hiron: Statistically, women are not much more numerous than men since they represent around 57% of caregivers. But according to the League of Human Rights, they provide two-thirds of the total volume of aid provided. Their load is often more complex and heavy than that of their male counterparts.
Many are in a “multi-help” situation: they accompany two or even three relatives – a sick child, an elderly parent, a spouse struck by cancer or a stroke… They also tend to help longer: first a parent or a sibling when they were children, then a spouse or a child with a disability, and later an elderly parent. So some women are carers all their lives.
Separations and recomposed families also give rise to new situations. After a divorce, many mothers find themselves alone with a child with a disability. And it is not uncommon that even separated, it is they who support their in-laws. Some caregivers working in the medico-social sector, they feel responsible, and those around them do not fail to highlight their expertise: “You who are a nurse, you will know better what to do”…
How do these situations affect their professional life?
MH: Assistance is an additional factor in the difficulty for women to progress in their careers. Since employers are not aware of the issue, caregivers tend to hide their situation and are exhausted. This sometimes forces them to work part-time, to give up professional development or promotions, or even to stop.
When the situation of a child makes it necessary to take care of it full time, for lack of adapted and accessible structures, they are the first to give up their jobs, their salary being generally lower than that of their spouse. It may be excessive to say it like that, but it’s a bit like putting women back in the house…
The question of the health of carers is also becoming significant, because they too are not spared by the disease…
MH: By dint of focusing on the health of their loved one, caregivers, and a fortiori caregivers, forget to think about their own health. Studies show that nearly half of them have a chronic disease, and that 60% are exposed to a risk of excess mortality in the three years following the onset of the disease of their loved one.
In a third of cases, the carers die before their cared for. Their mental health, too, is put to the test. It’s very hard to see a loved one suffer on a daily basis, especially when it comes to a chronic illness that can progress very quickly.
How to improve their daily life?
MH: By creating structures that are geographically and financially accessible to people with disabilities or loss of autonomy. By making health and medico-social professions more attractive, the shortage of which directly affects carers and their loved ones. By extending the carer’s leave, which concerns only some of them and is limited, over an entire career, to three months paid at the minimum wage.
By training health professionals and HR services in identifying and directing caregivers. By improving the visibility of caregivers through major communication campaigns… The list is long!