Forum: On Caregiving

“Forum: On Caregiving,” by Arthur Kleinman, Harvard Magazine, July-August 2010.

A scholar experiences the moral acts that come before—and go beyond—modern medicine.

Caregiving is not easy. It consumes time, energy, and financial resources. It sucks out strength and determination. It turns simple ideas of efficacy and hope into big question marks. It can amplify anguish and desperation. It can divide the self. It can bring out family conflicts. It can separate those who care from those who can’t or won’t handle it. It is very difficult. It is also far more complex, uncertain, and unbounded than professional medical and nursing models suggest. I know about the moral core of caregiving not nearly so much from my professional life as a psychiatrist and medical anthropologist, nor principally from the research literature and my own studies, but primarily because of my new life of practice as a primary caregiver.

I learned to be a caregiver by doing it, because I had to do it; it was there to do.

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Additional Resources:


Breast Cancer Consortium Quarterly Special Issue 2015 – “By Your Side: Being A Caregiver.” Click here to download the full special issue (PDF).


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