On the occasion of last 8 March, Farmindustria in collaboration with ONDA, the National Observatory for Women’s Health, promoted a meeting entitled “Especially Women! Value and protection of the family caregiver.” An opportunity to deepen the role that women play in the care and health of loved ones and to reflect, more generally, on the centrality of the person, the appropriateness of care and welfare in Italy.
From a survey conducted by Ipsos and presented at the Roman meeting, it emerges that 92% of women perform the function of caregivers. A fact to take into account because – emphasized Farmindustria’s president Massimo Scaccabarozzi – women are taking on this social role to take care of everyone, thus taking less care of themselves.
We talked about the delicate role of caregivers and why they are mainly women, with Dr. Emanuela Mencaglia, a psychologist in Humanitas.
The role of the socio-cultural context
“The role of caregiver associated with the female sex has its roots in the socio-cultural context of Italy and, more generally, of Southern Europe. In our country it is “normal” for women to take care of their loved ones. This is a cultural issue that turns into a gender issue. The figure of women has always been associated with motherhood, care, dedication to the family and affection: a cultural heritage that belongs to us despite the times changing and although the role of caregiver is increasingly covered by men,” said Dr. Mencaglia.
Men and women, different approaches
“A series of sociological studies conducted in the early 2000s have shown that women and men have different approaches to care: men tend to be problem solvers and their ability to focus on the problem and find a way to solve it, means that they have a more pragmatic approach in the management of the relative, but women have a different attitude, more emotional, and therefore the mental and spiritual time that invests is also greater, with repercussions on the duration of presence,” continued the specialist.
Social expectation becomes a duty
“A Spanish study has also shown that at a social level, women are expected to manage and take care of the health and wellbeing of their family members, but in their absence they can do so safely as men.
A reading that confirms how it is a cultural question: society determines who is responsible for the role of caregiver and this social expectation is transformed into an implicit duty for women, who feel called to play this role. As if she could not do otherwise, as if the assumption of this type of responsibility qualifies you as a woman in every respect, in its entirety and integrity.
It must be stressed, however, that this trend is changing and that there is an increase in the number of men who share the management of their daily lives with their companions or family members, but in order for this change to become from real to also being cultural, it takes time”, said Dr. Mencaglia.
The role of social inequality
“The fact that women take the situation of their loved ones to heart and take care of it cannot just be traced back to a cultural issue. The issue is both complex and sensitive and concerns several aspects.
Women, in general, are not inclined to be helped, and often boast multitasking skills. While the man perceives external help as a relief, the woman reads it as a sort of criticism to herself and translates it, in many cases, with not being able to do something in different situations, not being up to it. Women therefore tend to not ask for help, to concentrate everything on themselves relying only on their own strength, without giving up anything. This is why, in addition to the daily commitment (professional, family and personal), there is a possible burden such as that required of those who have a child or a sick relative to be cared for, a family member who is following a cycle of special care, etc.
In our country, moreover, female unemployment is high and therefore, in many cases, women can take care of their loved ones because they are forcibly free from work commitments; others choose to stay at home because their salary is often lower than that of their male colleagues, even with the same duties, and does not cover the expense of a career.
The scenario is complex and the issues at stake are many and often differ from case to case, so it is not so easy to draw a comprehensive picture of the situation. Caregivers, whether men or women, certainly play a major role in the management of a family member in difficulty, a role that involves commitment, responsibility and hard work, both physical and psychological. It is therefore good to pay attention to caregivers and their needs, to ensure that they continue to have the strength and tools to support the situations of fragility in which they are involved,” concluded Dr. Mencaglia.