Recognizing Caregiving Fatigue in the Pandemic: Notes on Aging, Burden and Social Isolation in Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Keywords:aging, caregiving, fatigue, pandemic, social isolation, Italy
AbstractIn Italy, the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns have provoked potentially serious short and long-term consequences for older people with serious health conditions as well as their family caregivers. With the closure of adult day-care centres and the suspension of private homecare services, families have needed to rearrange care activities and many are concerned about the situation of their relatives in residential homes. This article examines interpretations of aging and caregiving fatigue during the first period of national lockdown in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. The relation between old age, lockdown, and social isolation, with respect to global ideas and rhetoric, focuses on vulnerability, individual autonomy, and caregiving fatigue. I examine how the representation of the ‘burden’ of caregiving in late age shaped the media depictions, and I analyze it in relation to the meanings of fatigue attached to narrations from family caregivers and the members of a local Alzheimer’s Café. I also focus on the life story of one family caregiver to critique the idealized vision of family care that was reproduced during the pandemic. I argue that the recognition of aging and caregiving fatigue during the lockdown reflected pre-existing normative models and structural inequalities of family care rather than radically altering them.
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