Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mutualism as a Caregiving Model

Thinking more about Clint Eastwood’s movie, Gran Torino...also scenes from Witness where Amish farmers come together first to build a barn and then to defend Harrison Ford and the Amish family from corrupt cops.

Mutualism is custom designed for each species partnership. It can’t be legislated. It has to grow out of the specific needs of the participants. It evolves. It might be qualitative and/or quantitative.

Why do I think that mutualism is the best model for caregiving and especially for providing long-term care?

  • There is less paternalism and co-dependence because all parties are interdependent in ways that can be observed and measured.

  • It is possible to maintain self-respect no matter how dependent one is for services.

  • It is possible to maintain self-respect no matter how menial the caregiving tasks are.

  • Mutualism as a relationship process can be developed, strengthened, and repaired as required.

  • Mutualism offers a way to talk with family members about caregiving realities in a way that temporarily transcends habitual family communication patterns (family history, the various family trances).

Place is a major factor in mutualism. The characters in Gran Torino are next door neighbors---Walt won’t move and the Hmong families can’t. The Amish farmers In Witness depend on each other---come running when the alarm bell is rung.

We saw a
real-life example of this in San Francisco during the worst of the AIDS crisis. Many elderly Irish Catholic residents in the Castro were leery of the young gay men pouring into (and changing) “their” neighborhood. As more and more of these interlopers became sick from this strange new illness many of these neighbors provided all sorts of care. What made it mutual?

Caring flowed both ways.