What is caregiving? If you are a caregiver, you know without being told. It is the needed and appropriate response to another's situation. Caregiving is doing the obvious. It provides comfort and aid, intervention, support. If we wanted to be more specific, we could say, Caregiving is attention that acknowledges the other's needs by saying "I will help."
Caregiving is energy brought to another—intelligence, touch, observation, and emotion. Caregiving is the opportunity to be vulnerable with another person, protecting their vulnerability but exposing your own by being available, present. Physical stamina, emotional strength, and mental acuity along with nervous energy often constitute the state of caregiving.
Yet, what caregivers see as obvious and necessary, others may neglect. Within families, this can create tension, and worse. In the larger world, the need for caregiving grows. After more than a decade of caregiving, it has become an occupational benefit: I notice caregiving. A friend who shelters dogs till they have a home, an activist who gives water to thirty pigs and then is prosecuted for doing so, creative attempts to restore wetlands: I see all these as caregiving.
Caregiving has given me some of the most beautiful and some of the most difficult and some of the most heartbreaking moments in my life.
One thing I noticed about caregivers, we know the importance of handing on information. We create an oral tradition of tips and advice; what we benefited from when others shared their insights with us, we pass on to others. I formalized this advice-giving in a chapter in Never Too Late to Go Vegan in which we offered the first discussion of "Veganism and Caregiving." And, as I finish my book on "Jane Austen and Caregiving," I hope to pass on the rewards of reading as a caregiver (when there is time!).
I write about how I realized that all our caregiving of my mother led us to the wonderful opportunity of giving her a good death in this blog: http://caroljadams.com/carol-adams-blog/giving-the-christmas-gift-of-a-good-death