Each of us surely wants to be acknowledged as a “caring” person, even while so much that is uncaring is happening all round us – perpetrated presumably by aliens. The Head Rude-boy of Blingland has presided over changes in the Benefit system that disgrace us all, even while they continue sufficiently popular with his constituency to keep him at it. But he is careful to dress up the changes in some fashion that can make them seem benevolent, to make him seem to be someone who really, really “cares.”
But for several years now, the word “Carer” has been used to describe something a bit more specific that just the good neighbour, true or feigned.
In the social care services, the term describes – albeit very clumsily – a person involved – to a lesser or greater degree – in the care and support of someone who cannot manage for him or herself. Often the word “informal” is added, to emphasise the point that what is being described is unpaid, voluntary and unofficial, merely natural. For instance, the mother, or spouse, or child, or friend, involved in the community support of someone with long-term mental health problems, or someone who is elderly and infirm, is deemed an “informal carer.”
And the point is to ensure that the crucial nature of that complex role is recognised, so that certain state entitlements now due to the people concerned, carrying their burden, are claimed and provided. For it is still the case that many people whose lives are centred on, and defined by, their “informal caring” role, would not dream of using those words to describe what they do and are not aware that their activities warrant some (minimal) support. All they know is that their role and function is exhausting yet inescapeable, merely natural.